My second cookbook adaptation from kitchen to BBQ is a recipe from John Whaite’s latest book – Comfort, Food to soothe the soul. Food fulfils many roles in our lives, whether it’s fuelling us, putting a halt in our hunger, satisfying some of the deepest cravings, or in the case of comfort food it can take us to a place in our past.
I always enjoy listening to how people describe their favourite food because they don’t stop with the title of a dish. Parents know what dish to make their children if they’ve have a tough day or not feeling well, and among chefs I can’t say I’ve heard many describe their go to meal as a fine dining experience with its foams, mousses and infusions of goodness knows what from God only knows where!
Comfort food evokes memories and feelings, and can even make you feel close to someone who has long since left this place. I will always and forever be taken to my grandparents farmhouse kitchen if I taste blackcurrants because my grandma used to make the simplest and best blackcurrent pie made with a shortcrust pastry (no scales required!) and served with carnation milk. I probably first tasted this pie as a 5 year old boy and that nostalgia will always make me chose something on a menu just to see how it compares. Invariably it’s an unfair contest because nothing can really compete with the feelings associated with being in my grandparents kitchen, eating food that was grown in the orchard and baked in the kitchen with that secret ingredient often overlooked; Love!
John’s book is categorised by tastes and textures, and this recipe comes from the section he calls something tender. The lamb used in the dish is from the neck, but if you’re struggling to get this ask your butcher for diced lamb shoulder. This part of the lamb benefits from a low and slow cook, which unlocks untold amounts of flavour from quite rough looking pieces of meat. So, to the recipe…
*The only substitutions I made were cold-pressed rapeseed oil for the vegetable oil, and tagliatelle for the wholewheat pappardelle as I couldn’t find it in my local supermarket.
Specialist equipment: You’ll see I used a Weber cast-iron Wok accessory to create this dish but other large cast iron Dutch ovens or large skillets will work just as well. If you do use some of your day-to-day kitchenware, do know that sometimes marks and burns appear from cooking on the barbecue that don’t come off, no matter the amount of elbow grease you apply…you’ve been warned!
For the Pasta
- 400g dried wholewheat pappardelle, or tagliatelle
- 75ml extra virgin olive oil
- small handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
For the Sauce
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 8 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed or microplaned
- 100g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 500g lamb neck, diced
- 400ml dry rosé wine
- 400ml chicken stock
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
- Setup your BBQ for 150c direct heat, but if using charcoal baskets leave a slight gap in the middle to prevent the wok from getting too hot. It’s important not to be too hot for the first step in the cooking.
*If using a gas grill have the middle burner on low with the 2 outer burners on medium.
*If using a ceramic grill, insert the heat deflector as this is an indirect cook rather than a straight grill.
- Preheat your cast-iron wok/Dutch oven for 10 minutes with the barbecue lid closed.
- Add the butter and oil and once the butter is foaming add the onion and anchovies. Fry, stirring until the onions start to soften and colour slightly. Don’t be tempted to cook too quickly or the onion and anchovies will burn and give the finished dish a bitter taste.
- Add the garlic, olives and lamb, stir to coat.
- Add the wine, stock and rosemary, and bring to the boil.
- Drag the charcoal baskets to the edge of the kettle barbecue, or switch off the central burner in a gas barbecue. This will turn the heat from direct to indirect and allow the lamb to cook slowly for the 2-3 hours needed to break it down.
*It’s not in the original method but I cut a disc of parchment large enough to cover the surface of the stew. Different to a lid, the wet parchment disc, known as a cartouche will allow some liquor to evaporate while the stew reduces slowly beneath. It will keep the dish from drying out before the lamb is falling apart. Stir every now and then, and if the dish gets a little dry just add a splash of water.
To see how to make a cartouche click here.
- What you’re looking for is a sauce that has reduced to a thicken consistency with beautifully tender pieces of lamb. Once you’re happy the lamb is cooked to perfection, taste before adding any salt and pepper. With the addition of the anchovies and olives, I found mine to have a very intense depth of flavour thanks to the slow reduction.
- Once the lamb is cooked, remove the dish from the BBQ and leave to rest. While it rests cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, ensuring the water is well salted! Reserve 100ml of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta well.
- Mix the pasta into the sauce, along with the olive oil, reserved pasta cooking water and parsley before serving.
(I seem to have got a little ahead of myself and took the photo before adding the parsley…oops!)
Being a fellow Lancastrian I’m not quite sure where John got his inspiration from to put olives and anchovies in this low n slow lamb dish but it’s a triumph! Please don’t be put off by an ingredients list that has more than 5 or 6 items, because when you actually look at what is needed, I’m thinking you will only really need to go buy the anchovies, olives and lamb, oh and maybe the fresh herbs. The rest are store cupboard ingredients, and a great excuse to open a bottle of rosé!
Verdict: This dish is a wonderful reason to fire up your barbecue, get this pot of goodness on the go, and spend the next few hours preparing for a dinner that can be as easily enjoyed curled up on the sofa as it can at the table surrounded with family and friends; Thanks John!