Sunday, June 19, 2011

#299 Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Crab


For the 300th recipe I got a few people round to mine for a little dinner party. Number 300 would hopefully be impressive and I wanted to do something for #299 that would be impressive too and this recipe certainly sounded the part. I also wanted something that dated in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, again to match receipt 300.

A recipe for a leg of lamb stuffed with 'a forcemeat containing the meat of a crab or lobster … [with] a little grated lemon peel, and nutmeg', appeared in The London Art of Cookery by John Farley (1811), so it has a decent history, though this kind of food has very much fallen out favour in England. However, one particular chef gave it a breath of new life in the 1970s. A chap called Guy Mouilleron came up with the recipe that appears in English Food and therefore here in the blog, after some French chefs who were working in London were having a right good-old laugh at the English's eating habits. "Fancy" one of them said "they even eat lamb with crab!" Chef Mouilleron thought it sounded like a good idea and conjured up a recipe. It's funny that every British (and Irish!) person I've spoken to about this recipe has thought it just a bizarre as those French chefs.

There's no need to be freaked by this combination though, says Jane, meat was often 'piqued' with fish all the time to give it extra flavour; the idea is not to impart a fishy flavour though, but a mysterious deliciousness. This is true as I already knew after one the great recipes from the blog – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. Meats are also cooked with anchovies a lot too, especially lamb and that cornerstone of English cuisine, the Melton Mowbray pork pie. It seems these things are being lost because of the Englishman's squeamishness of all things fishy in general.

It is strange to me that Americans – or, at least, Houstonians – don't really eat that much lamb and getting hold of a full, large leg of lamb with the bone in isn't really possible in Houston's otherwise comprehensive supermarket meat sections. However, I did manage to get hold of one very easily from the very good Pete's Fine Meats on Richmond Avenue.

Pete's Fine Meats, Houston TX

The recipe also calls for crab meat of course. You can boil your own (see here for instructions) or buy one preboiled. Do not, says Griggers, buy frozen meat as it had lost most of its flavour. However, here in America, where folks like seafood, it is very easy to get hold of freshly picked crab meat in supermarkets, so if you are in the USA, there is no need for you to sit and spend thirty minutes picking the meat from a crab's carapace. God bless America for making the recipe a little easier for yours truly.

If you fancy the idea of this combination, here's how to make it:

Start off by tunnel-boning a large leg of lamb. This is not that difficult to do – I followed the instructions here and it took just five or ten minutes to do. Use the bones to make half a pint of lamb stock (see here for recipe). Season the inside and outside of your leg.


Next, make the stuffing. You need eight to ten ounces of crab meat; either buy it fresh if you can or get hold of a crab weighing around one-and-a-half pounds. To the crab meat, mix in half a teaspoon of curry powder, a tablespoon of fresh mint and three egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the crab and sew up the lamb at both ends with a stout needle and some thick thread. All this can be done in advance, of course.


Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Chop equal amounts of onions and carrots, enough to cover the bottom of a roasting tin, as well as a large celery stick. Season well and place the lamb on top. Cover with a double layer of foil (if you have a self-basting tin, you can use that instead) and roast in the oven for two hours. Take the roasting tin out of the oven and place the lamb on another tin and put back in the oven to crisp up.

For the accompanying sauce, put the tin with the vegetables on the hob and bring to a simmer, cooking for five minutes. Now add the lamb stock and half a pint of dry white wine. Make sure you scrape off any of the burnt bits from the surface of the roasting tin. They are the best bits. Strain the sauce into a saucepan, skim away any fat and then stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream and a teaspoon of curry powder.
Place the meat on a large serving dish (don't forget to take out its stitches!) and surround it by buttered noodles and pour the sauce into a sauce boat. Griggers didn't say what vegetables to serve with it, so I served green beans, my own personal favourite lamb accompaniment.


#299 Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Crab. Well I wanted something that looked impressive and it this definitely looked the part. The meat was very good as was the minty and fresh tasting stuffing, though the sauce was a little bland. It wasn't bad or anything, it just didn't pack the punch that I expected it to. If I were to cook it again, I would simmer that sauce right so it became concentrated before adding the cream and curry powder. My expectations were also raised because the lamb section of the book has been so very good thus far. That said, roast lamb can never be bad in my opinion, so I give it a 7/10.

2 comments:

Jonathan Monk said...

Fascinating! Oddly enough, I'd always resisted this recipe, partly because of the curry powder and the cream sauce, but also because in my home territory of NE England (specifically the Northumberland Coast), they cook a similar dish of lamb leg stuffed with white crab meat and wrapped in fronds of Kelp, which imparts a vaguely laver-like flavour to the juices. It would be served with redcurrant jelly or some other tart sauce though (in the NE, redcurrant jelly is sometimes made with vinegar added). Just for the files!

Thanks again for the enjoyment your blog provides.

Neil B said...

Thanks Jonathan! I think I may revisit this recipe as I didn't use brown meat from the crab, which I think would transform the dish. Le me know how you get on