Herdwick and Beer Stew

As best I can tell there is no definitive recipe for Herdwick stew. What we really have here is mutton stew. What gives it the name is the key ingredient, the Herdwick. What is a Herdwick I hear you ask? Well, it’s one of these.

These hardy mountain sheep live the majority of their lives roaming the fells only occasionally being brought down for breeding purposes and general husbandry. As a boy, in Cumbria, in the 1970’s, we were taught in school that the Herdwick was bred for its wool. We were taught that the meat was really to tough to make good eating. But, in reality, we all knew the truth. The life of this sheep, roaming the fells living on whatever it can find to graze, gives it an amazing flavour. Something which, in the last five to ten years, the rest of the world seems to have realised too. The secret is out!

This is how I cooked mine on this day. The ingredients are just what I could grab out of the fridge. I would expect you to use your favorite mutton stew recipe. By the way, I reckon that Herdwick mutton would make a brilliant Moroccan style lamb tagine.

I’m using, mutton (obviously), Chorizo, potato, tomato, mushroom, onion, leek, garlic, chilli, paprika, dried herbs, beer and a small dash of whisky. If I’d had fresh parsley or fresh thyme I would have used them. First, fry off the meat. Then fry of the vegetables and chuck in the seasoning. Add the beer, a dash of whisky and stir. Then sit back, relax, look a the view and stew for as long as it takes. The end result. The remainder into a food jar for later on in the day. You know, there are some people when out and about pour hot water in to those ghastly freeze-dried packet things. I suppose that’s ok if you’re some kind of long expedition type of person. But for the rest of us, there are alternatives.

Flambe – Some Random Personal Notes

Last nights Flambe failed to ignite. The pan sauce still worked nicely. But I missed out the spectacular that gives me that brief, satisfying moment of pretence that I am a three star genius.

My first recollection of the flambe was as a boy in Kendal. My parents would take me to collect my younger brother from boarding school at the end of term. They would then take us to a particular resturant where my brother would always order the banana fritter. In due course, the waiter would wheel around a trolley light up a spirit stove and cook the dish in front of us. The highlight, for me as an eight year old, was watching the gentle blue flame caressing the banana. It was really magical.

I’m not so subtle. I’m more Floydesque in my approach. If there isn’t a rocket like column of flame hitting the ceiling then it’s no good. I want people diving for cover. I want people donning sunglasses. Better still, safety glasses. I want people standing by with fire extinguishers. This is showtime!

In my experience any 40% spirit works. Beyond that pretty much anything goes. Like any kind of fire, I guess the fire triangle applies. In other words, you need three things. Fuel, oxygen and a heat/ignition source. This time I was using my iron grill pan. I have not flambed with this before. I had it much hotter than normal to sear in the grill marks. I think this may be the source of the problem. Firstly, I suspect the alcohol may have evaporated very rapidly (no fuel). Secondly I may have had the lighter to close in to the evaporation (no oxygen). Whatever, we live and learn.

When doing this, I’m very unimaginative in sauces. Cream, butter plus maybe, beer or cider or wine or, even, champagne. The secret is, after reducing the sauce, to add back in a teeny tiny amount of the booze to revive the flavour.

I really must experiment more with flambe sauces. I wonder, something along the lines of chilli and tequilla maybe?

The Bacon Sandwich

I’ve always liked the traditional story of the origin of the Sandwich.The story of how the Earl of Sandwich dismissed the call for dinner and requested a piece of meat between two slices of bread, so he could remain gambling at the card table. That’s style.

For me the unrivalled king of the sani is the bacon sani. I defy anyone, anywhere to come up with something better. I’m prepared to accept the sausage sani comes close (brown sauce btw). I’m also prepared to accept the chip butty should be high on the list too. But the king of sani’s, hot or cold, is the bacon sani and I will not compromise on that point. It is non negotiable. And please don’t even mention second division embarrassment like the hamburger or the hot dog. And things like wraps and tack’s don’t even count as sani’s at all!

With the bacon sani, it’s tempting to add in things like tomato’, mushrooms, lettuce and the like. But then it wouldn’t be a bacon sani. It would become a bacon and tomato sani or a bacon and mushroom sani or even a BLT. The beauty of the bacon sani lays in it’s elegant simplicity and in it’s purity.