Friday, 9 November 2012

On my mark.

Unleash Hell.

And so it was, the war for total domination had lasted for over half a century.

It was now 5076 A.D, and I was stranded in the dark realms of the Minmatar Republic.

I was just one final battle away from total and complete victory, poised to rule over the entire solar system for all eternity, with billions of subjects, an all powerful, omnipresent super power. 

The Leviathan Titan ship I was commanding was in charge of a fleet of over 17000 spaceships, all waiting for my battle cry .

My ship was 18 kilometers of pure, raw power, ready to blast the last remaining subordinates to their total and complete destruction.

So, I did.

And, as supreme leader,  I closed the curtains, turned the volume up to maximum, and then realised Sophie was going to be home soon, and I hadn't even started dinner.

So, I made a tactical decision, and grew up, and pushed on for a couple of hours!

Ruling the solar system could wait for another day, and I was a bit peckish.

And all I had to start dinner was the wrong cut of lamb, and a bag of pasta 00 flour.

And, even as the superpower that I now was, I was going to struggle to knock up some linguini without a pasta machine.

So, sod that, I'll make some bread and gnocchi instead.

First, I needed a biga.



It's just pasta flour, some yeast and water, mixed up, and left to ferment for a couple of hours, and even though we now have a nice shiny red Kitchen Aid to use I wanted to make some simple focaccia, using just my hands, showing how easy it is to knock up some amazing fresh bread.

The biga is the base of the bread, and the longer the ferment, the better the flavour.

I suppose its a bit like an Italian sourdough starter, only much quicker.

And, its best to use pasta flour for this, as it results in a nice, open texture, perfect for mopping all those garlicky lamb juices up!

So, as I was going all Italian, I would use the rest of the flour to make some gnocchi, but I'll come back to that later.

After a couple of hours, the biga is getting, well, bigger!

So, its now mixed with more pasta flour, olive oil, salt and warm water, as we want to keep the proving process going.

I might have also added a small dice of cured pork  fat to the mix, just for some added flavour!

Now, a lot of recipes tell you to knead the hell out of it, but I prefer to stretch and pull the dough ever twenty minutes or so.

So, looking like an extra in "Bugsy Malone", I covered my hands in olive oil, and gently caressed the bread, and after a couple of hours it was beginning to look alright.

So, while all this was going on, I has to start pushing on with my little potato and Parmesan dumplings.

We were using them at East Lodge , and I though with all that spare pasta flour they would be a good way to start Sunday's dinner.

So, bread resting, I boiled a few spuds. pushed them through the ricer, and that was it.

Well, sort of.

I wanted these babies to be as light as an angels fart, so all we needed was a couple of egg yolks, grated Parmesan cheese and the left over pasta flour.

As its a finer flour you will end up, hopefully, with lighter gnocchi.


And, again, just lightly mixing everything up, all I had to do was shape them, poach them for a couple of minutes, drain and refresh them, ready to be sauteed later for dinner.

Some people, like their bread, spend ages kneading their gnocchi but I prefer the lighter approach, as it's doesn't get the gluten working, and so they will be easier to digest

And as we had a massive shoulder of lamb to get through as well, I thought this can only be a good thing!

So, all mixed up, rolled into a thin log sort of shape, and blanched, refreshed, they were done.

A great thing to do with these as well is mix in other bits and bobs, as a little flavour changer.

Black truffles are, of course, superb, so are chopped black olives, herbs, different cheeses and bits of bacon.

But, tonight, because, quite frankly, I was massively in it, they were left plain.

So, as it stands, the bread is on it's way, the gnocchi is taking shape, all I has to do was sort out the lamb.

And, I was still trying to take pictures of all this, have a glass of wine and amuse Agnes, and rule the universe, I was multi tasking to the max!

So, the lamb.

Hello Simon, what can I do for you today?

Hello David, I'd like the usual please, a knuckle end of your finest Suffolk Down Peak District lamb shoulder please.

No problem Simon.

Thanks David.



Not very difficult is it?


Not the blade!

So, anyway, he gives me the blade end.

And as I was not paying any attention to what was going on, didn't even bother to check!

Next time he does it I'll blast him out of the universe!

So, I ended up with blade.

Although, I wasn't too eggy as all David's lamb is out of this world, I knew dinner was not going to be ruined, well not by the lamb anyway.

And, as lady luck was shining down on me, the neck fillet was still attached to the shoulder, so all I did was whip it off, and I planned to just pan fry that and serve it will the gnocchi, while the blade end was slowly roasting in the oven.

Right, back to the bread, and by slowly caressing it, it was beginning to get nice and smooth and elastic, not too far from being shaped, ready for it's final proving.

So, as is normal, I stretched the dough, pushed some rosemary into it, sprinkled with salt and some water, and left it for another forty minutes, or so, until risen and ready to go into a red hot oven.

So the lamb was out, and resting, but as you can see, I was getting a bit wobbly!

Time was running out, pasta flour was everywhere, I had a fleet of spaceships to command, and on top of all that, try to take pictures with a steady hand!

I was feeling the pressure!

So I managed to get my hands on some Italian black cabbage, so I planned to quickly blanch it in boiling salted water, and then toss it in some reduced lamb juices, crushed garlic and the pan fried neck fillet.

If you can get your hands on some good stuff its really worth trying, just make sure you cook it pink, and leave to rest for a while.

So now the lamb was out of the oven, I increased the temperature to "solar hot", and chucked in the bread.

Now, remember I'm used to using my incredible Rational ovens at East Lodge, so quite frankly, I wasn't expecting my domestic one to deliver, but as you can see it was alright actually.

So, just as planning complete control of the universe takes some doing, so does any Sunday dinner at my house!

Right, the lamb neck is cooked and the the slowly roasted blade end is out, resting, ready to be carved.

All I needed to was caramelise the gnocchi, add some herbs, black pepper, the shredded cavolo nero, or black cabbage and that's the first course sorted.

So, you can see all it took was a little bit of mash, grated cheese, meat and a couple of other bits and bobs and it's a nice easy starter sorted.

With the sliced lamb on top I think it worked a treat, and all because I don't have a pasta machine!

As our main course all I had to do was carve the lamb, which was by the way, superb, as is always the case with our amazing Derbyshire lamb, cut up some freshly baked bread, cook some sliced runner beans and reduce the leftover lamb juices.

So, all that gentle kneading has paid off and the focaccia has a nice open texture, salty crust and a delicate rosemary scent, perfect for mopping up nice sweet fatty lamb juice.

I'll tell you what, I've got absolutely no idea why my blood pressure never seems to go down, or my trousers never seem to be just a little bit looser!

Still, it's a nice little Sunday lunch though, eh?

Derbyshire lamb, some flour, a couple of potatoes, oh and some superpowers, and Sunday dinner need never be a problem again!

Right that's it.

My name is Gladiator.

Strength and honor.

Next time I'll tell you how this years pheasant dish was inspired by some wig wearing anarchists from four hundred years ago, how cold rice pudding is a thing of beauty, and how my local corner shop appears to have gone completely mad!

And how I might swap my spaceship for a little red car, and whizz around avoiding banana skins and exploding cabbages!

Music for tonight, the one and only "Dreamlover" (Def Club Mix Edit) by Mariah Carey.

Right, where is that suncream!

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