February’s recipe: Richard Craven’s Hay smoked Nolan brook Hogget, red cabbage and parsnips

In his own words...
I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the BITE2014’s food festival in Chipping Campden, which gave me the opportunity to cook on a rather splendid demonstration kitchen supplied by Bower Willis Designs. In return I've shared one of my seasonal winter dishes, not at all in the hope of the permanent loan of a shiny show kitchen!

Seasonal
Seasonal local food, is a very real passion for me not just marketing buzz words, being brought up and schooled in the Cotswolds and then continuing on to work as a chef in the same region. As a result I have friends who work as gamekeepers, farmers and indeed cheese makers. It's these fantastic contacts that inform and often indirectly write my menu's for me.

Local
For instance, the Hogget (an 18 month to two year old sheep) used in this recipe was bred just outside Chipping Campden by a close friend, Sam Walby of Nolan Brook. A fantastic young food producer who specialises in rare breeds; Cotswold sheep or Lions as their also affectionately nicknamed. He's also breeding a rather special chicken for me, or rather a hen because we're growing them slowly and naturally before slaughter. Then hanging them guts in or 'Long leg' to develop a fuller flavoured bird before it then appears on my menu. It's these personal relationships with small scale producers which truly excite me and the rest of my kitchen team.

Hay smoked Nolan brook Hogget, red cabbage and parsnips

This recipe has a nod to an age old Cotswold tradition of baking a lamb leg in hay. However, I choose to briefly smoke the lamb to give it a light aroma that doesn't compete with the fantastic natural flavour of the Cotswold sheep. An added bonus and in my opinion quite romantic, is the organic hay used to smoke the Hogget, which comes from the same pastures that the sheep are kept on. Some things are just meant to be together.

I prefer to use the leg as I feel it has the best flavour and then 'seam' butcher the Individual muscle out so they cook evenly, but you could just as easily use a loin if you prefer.

Serves: 6

Ingredients
1 leg of lamb/Hogget
500g parsnips
Half a litre of milk
1 red cabbage
100 ml red wine vinegar
A good glug of red wine (reserve the rest for yourself)
100g dark brown sugar
Hay (mine came from the farm, but you can get a small bag from any pet store)

To finish/garnish at the restaurant I use:
Baby parsnips - honey roasted
Dehydrated cabbage hearts (crisps)
Red cabbage powder
Dehydrated grapes - semi dried
A lamb stock reduction
Shepherd's pie (Braised Hogget with a mashed potato top)

But this is all essentially the frilly bits rather than the essence of the dish.

Method

Cabbage
Discard the outer leaves, slice the cabbage as fine as you can, removing the stem (I use this as a garnish). Put in a casserole dish with a large glass of red wine, 100ml of red wine vinegar and 100g of dark brown sugar. Cook at 160c with a lid on in the oven for approximately two hours, stir every half an hour or so.

Parsnips
Parsnip purée
Peel and chop the parsnips into equal pieces and cover with a combination of milk and water and simmer until soft, then purée and season.

Honey roasted parsnips
Parboil the baby parsnips for 6 minutes, remove from water, season, add honey and roast in oven until caramelised.

Hogget
Butcher
Seam butcher the leg of lamb/Hogget. It's easier than you'd think. If you look at the leg you can see the 'seams' that link all the individual muscles together. Use your knife to separate the muscles in small movements, once you've made the first incision you can carefully use your fingers to help separate the muscles as you go. A nice butcher will be able to do this for you if you prefer.

Smoke
Get the hay smouldering in a pan, add the lamb, pop the lid on and seal for two minutes. Then remove the lamb, we only want a mild smokey aroma.

Cook
Sear off in foaming butter until the entire exterior of the meat is nicely caramelised. Put in the oven at 180c for 4-6 minutes depending on how you like your lamb cooked - 4 minutes will be medium rare. Then let rest for approximately the same amount of time again.

Lamb stock: we make our own and reduce it down until it thickens, but you can buy a good alternative in the supermarket. Go for a fresh stock rather than the powdered alternative

To plate: put the purée on the plate, then the cabbage, Hogget and any of the other garnishes you wish to add in whichever way that appeals to you, and most importantly enjoy.

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