Hay On… Why?

For anyone wondering about our first practical application for that vinegar powder recipe, here it is: Lamb in Hay with Wool. As main courses go, it’s something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing. What sounds challenging, and indeed does use some unusual ingredients, actually tastes familiar, luxurious and comforting – everything you could wish for in an autumn/winter dish.

The wool is, of course, candy floss (or cotton candy, as our American friends know it). Visually, it’s a neat conceit, but right from the beginning we wanted the addition of our ‘wool’ to be something more than a gimmick. Wordplay and theatre are all very well, but when weighing up any ingredient or component the biggest concerns are always the same: does it taste good, does it really improve the whole dish, and does it balance well with everything else on the plate?

In the case of basic candy floss, the answer is no. It’s just too sweet. But the addition of vinegar powder changes everything, giving us a sweet and sour addition that perfectly complements and lifts the flavour of the lamb, vegetables and saucing elements.
Which then brings us the hay, which we cook the lamb in, as well as using it to create a hay ash for the final plating. The use of hay might seem like another trip into Weirdsville, but this is a technique with serious heritage. Head chef James Graham has been baking lamb in hay for an age now, drawing on inspiration from cooks who used the same technique decades and even centuries ago. Think of it as extension of smoking and campfire cooking and it’s really not so strange. Give it a try and let us know how you get on.

EQUIPMENT: Muslin, Cast Iron Pot

INGREDIENTSLamb Shoulder, Small bale of hay*, 250g butter, 25g garlic, 25g dried lavender, 25g fresh rosemary, 2sp salt, 2tsp pepper (use a good quality hay – if it smells bad fresh then it’s not going to improve any with cookling)

  1. Blend all ingredients together with the butter.
  2. Liberally coat the lamb shoulder with the butter mix and wrap the lamb in muslin.
  3. Line cast iron container with hay. Place the lamb in the middle and cover with more hay.
  4. Place the lid on the container, ensuring that no strands of hair are sticking out. WARNING: any stray strands will ignite like a wick.
  5. Bake in the oven at 150c for 4½ hours, by which point the lamb should be very tender.
  6. After cooling remove the lamb in muslin, unwrap, and remove meat from the bones.
  7. Wrap the meat tightly in cling film to form a cylinder and chill for later portioning and reheating. (The liqueur from the pan can also be strained and added back to the meat).
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3 Responses to Hay On… Why?

  1. Tes says:

    That really looks elegant and sounds delicious. The dish is so stunning and I just wish I could cook like that.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Duncan says:

    See today’s Guardian. It looks like Allium 1, Fat Duck 0:

    “Have you ever cooked something inedible?” I’m not sure if it’s the sort of question you’re meant to ask Blumenthal, but it’s the one that’s always been on my mind. He seems only slightly taken aback. “Everything we do goes through a process of refinement,” he says, “but over the years I’ve come to know what food combinations work, so there are few outright failures. Having said that, I did waste four years trying to create savoury candy floss. I needed therapy to get over that.”

    • alliumfood says:

      LOL, thanks Duncan. Though to be fair to Heston it’s not so much that we solved the problem of making a savoury candy floss, more that we decided to work with the sweetness instead of eliminating it entirely. Not that we’ve quite given up on the idea of a non-sweet floss, mind you…

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