An interlude with the Aga

December 9, 2008

Part recovered from flu and at home for a few weeks I was able to recommence, after a too long absence, one of my main hobbies, namely cooking. Saturday I decamped to Sumbler Borthers in London Road Marlborough. John Sumbler is one of those old fashioned butchers who knows all his customers by name, uses locally killed meat and is a specialist in game. Conversation is a part of purchase and I left after half an hour with three brace of pheasant, partridge, venison sausage, lambs liver, green bacon, venison, two shanks of lamb and a shoulder of lamb from a rare breed, not to mention some of the best black pudding you can find in the south. Thence to the Greengrocer and home to start a mass batch cook.

Saturday the partridge were stuffed with apricots, wrapped in back bacon roasted on a high temperature and served with fresh green runner beans and roast King Edward potatoes (boil briefly, then drain and place in bottom oven of the Aga for half an hour until they are close to crumbling then quickly into hot walnut oil for forty minutes.

In parallel the lamb shanks were browned and cooked in the bottom oven with wine, herbs and various vegetables for four hours (only an Aga can do that sort of slow cooking) until the meat fell from the bones. That went into the freezer.

Sunday was comfort food day: liver, bacon and onions. Onions need to be lightly fried and the a teaspoon of water added to the pan which is then covered to allow them to cook slowly for twenty minutes or so. Bacon fried dry gives the fat to flash fry the liver and the remains are mixed with a glass of red wine and a spoonful of Armagnac to add a spot of luxury to an otherwise prosaic dish. Add two large (six inch diameter) field mushrooms and a glass of dry cider and its a meal fit for a king.

Today I more or less completed the process. Daughter and boy friend came round for the evening so the shoulder of lamb was rubbed with garlic then coated with a mixture of honey and cider, sealed and cooked for two hours. Roast potatoes again but add to that braised fennel (cut into quarters, fry in butter then add stock and cook slowly for 40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed, grate over parmesan and grill quickly), leeks and carrots glazed with cider and you have a meal worthy of a fine Pinot saved from the last visit to New Zealand.

While that was going on the three brace of pheasants were browned and set aside. Bacon then followed, flour and a mix of wine and stock to which button onions, red current jelly and various herbs were added. The whole pan fills the bottom oven of the Aga and I finally took it out a few moments ago after eight hours slow cooking. That’s for the freezer in the morning when it cools down.

Finally the venison is happily marinating in wine and will be ready to cook in a couple of days time; the black pudding will add flavour.

Now why can’t more of life be like that?

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