I promised I’d make it and so here it is! Poached leg of mutton with caper sauce.
Yes, I know it isn’t much to look at. It’s a boiled sheep’s leg with root vegetables a la Medieval Britain. What were you expecting?
I suppose I could have made it into a tower or something but that would ruin its old fashioned charm. You’ll have to be content with the square plate and rosemary leaves.
You’re probably asking yourself why I got started on this whole mutton thing in the first place. It all started during a conversation between James and myself a while ago. He’d mentioned in passing that during his childhood his family often tried to save money by buying meats which, for various reasons, were not popular and hence were very cheap. At that time (in the mid-late 80s) this included things such as mutton, brawn, oxtail and, due to the BSE crisis, British beef.
Apparently one of the dishes made in the Skillen household was mutton in caper sauce. I was suprised at this, mostly because I knew my mother had always bought this meat from Sri Lankan shops and I’d always believed they’d been exclusive to Sinhalese cooking.
MY memories of mutton curry, rather like James’ memories of the caper sauce dish, were not terribly happy. I remember tough little nuggets of meat that left your jaw aching and bits in your teeth. Still, when I was told that this had once been the most popular meat in Britain, I thought I had to try it myself. Surely not everyone pre 1800 could have had bad taste?
Several years passed before managed to get my hands on the meat I needed. It wasn’t until I started shopping at Borough market that I found what I was looking for. First I got a rolled neck, the fate of which can be seen here and here. Then I got the leg which would provide me with last Tuesday’s dinner.
I searched around for recipes and found they varied enormously. Some had a sauce with cream, some thickened milk, others just capers and stock. I went for the cream option. The process was easy but lengthy. The mutton leg was simmered gently for three hours in a pot with a load ofrosemary and thyme, garlic and some white wine. About 15 minutes before the end I threw in a chopped turnip, a sliced leek and some new potatoes This produced a really rich flavoured ’stock’ to which I added a tablespoon of capers. Then I reduced it 1/8 of its original volume then added a roux and cream.
Simple really!I drained the rest of the liquid from the meat and veg and served up.
So Goon and I went about ’assessing’ the mutton leg with the sauce and vegetables. The conclusion? It was good. Not amazing, but pleasant. I’ve come to the conclusion that mutton meat was made to put in curry. The flavour was a little strong and, well, ‘meaty’ for the caper sauce.
It makes damn good sandwiches though! I’ve been eating it in little soft rolls with mustard. Now how does that old saying go…. ‘Mustard and Mutton is the sign of a Glutton’!