Today (17 January) is said to be the gloomiest day of the year. Can’t say I’m particularly gloomy, although I am a bit exhausted.
Yesterday, we were finally able to host the Family Get-Together we had planned to have over Christmas, but were unable to do so because of colds, flu, snow and so forth.
As the fates would have it, we had everyone round for Sunday lunch. The DEB made the invitation while we were dining at his brother’s, along with our lovely rellies from Cumbria. “Shall we have everyone to ours for lunch on Sunday?” he asked. There was general, enthusiastic agreement around the table.
My panic did not set in until the following day! My brother-in-law, a.k.a.,"The Guru" is an amazing cook, who entertains with an effortless abandon that would make Nigella green with envy! His partner-in-crime, a.k.a, "The Guru-ette", is a sassy, hard-core foodie, who likes what she likes.
My heart sank at the very thought of cooking a serious meal for these two. I mean, of course, I’ve cooked a ‘fun’ meal for them (big bowls of chili con carne) before we moved into our new house, and we’ve had everyone round for Indian take-aways, snacks and nibbles, anniversary party finger food, bacon butties (sandwiches) and even a World cup barbecue – but we’ve never hosted The Guru and The Guru-ette to a proper, full-on, sit-down meal.
The minute we returned home, I ran to my cookbook shelf for inspiration! Whilst fumbling through pages of Jamie, Nigella, and Easy British Classics, I sneaked a peek at The Perfect Hostess to see if good, old Rose Henniker Heaton could offer any cheering words of advice…
In her section entitled: “The Family Gathering takes place at your House” her advice is shrewd and curt:
“It sounds a lot trouble but it’s really worth it,” she begins. “Having the family to Luncheon,” she warns, “is a most difficult form of entertaining.” (Hmmm…I had already figured that one out myself.)
However, Henniker Heaton continues, “if, at the end of the meal everyone is still speaking civilly to everyone else, the hostess may congratulate herself on a successful party.” (…Oh dear. Thankfully, ours isn’t that sort of family.)
Once she moves on the menu itself, Henniker Heaton finally strikes a more pertinent note: “Cocktails,” she declares, “are absolutely essential!” (Finally, some useful information!)
I read recipes until my eyes blurred, and then decided the best way to decide what to cook was to take to the streets! Or, rather, to the shops. Off I went to my beloved Sainsbury’s for some inspiration.
Warning: Vegetarians, stop reading now.
Steak, turkey, venison, duck, goose, chicken, lamb, roast beef, pork…I was overwhelmed by choices. Before heading off to Sainsbury’s, I had a gander at BBC Good Food online, and the first thing that came to mind was Lamb.
It sounded to appetizing, delightful and fresh. After a long, cold foul (fowl?) winter - Lamb seemed a harbinger of a Spring that is surely, surely somewhere out there on the horizon?
All the Lamb recipes I found promised an easy process, with a huge and impressive pay-off. Hmmmm…it all seemed a little too good to be true…
I walked briskly into Sainsbury’s, straight to the lamb section of the meat aisle. Legs, shoulders, joints, steaks, chops - lamb everywhere! My mantra was clear: “I will not be intimidated by lamb. I will not intimidated by lamb…”
Though that eventually gave way to a much simpler motto: “I will not cry in Sainsbury’s. I will not cry in Sainbury’s...”
Thank heavens, for the DEB. A firm hand on my shoulder, and his calming voice: “You can do this. And, I’ll help.”
In the end, it was lamb, and it was lovely! And more importantly, it felt so wonderful to be sharing a meal and hosting this wonderful, new family that I love so much!
Here is the recipe I used – a combination of several different ones, cobbled together:
Roast leg of lamb with rosemary & red wine gravy
1 leg of lamb - about 2½kg
1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
3-4 sprigs rosemary
dried mint, thyme, marjoram, rosemary
Red Wine Gravy
2 onions, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves bashed
300ml red wine
1 lamb stock cube
Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put the lamb in a shallow dish and rub with olive oil all over the surface. Make holes in the lamb with a small sharp knife and stick slices of garlic and few sprigs of rosemary in each. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, dried mint, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary.
Line a roasting dish with the onions, shallots, garlic and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil. Crumble the lamb stock cube over the top of onions, shallots, garlic and rosemary. Pour in the red wine. Place the lamb on top of the onions, shallots, garlic and rosemary.
Roast for 11/2 hours. Leave to rest loosely covered with foil for at least 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid into a jug and serve piping hot.
We had a super time. It was Uncle C’s birthday, and so the DEB and I got a cake and indoor sparklers. The sparklers failed to cooperate, but that just made the mood all the more festive! And, I realised there was no need for me to be have been so stressed, after all.