Thursday, January 25, 2007

Burn it off

A recipe upon which to unleash some real anger, yet giving you just enough time to cool off and become receptive to its soothing reward; a one-pot, two-day meal that will melt away the worst of January’s hostilities; and all for the price of a box of fags.

What you do is this. Go into your nearest supermarket, probably a Tesco, and pick up a half-shoulder of lamb on-the-blade. Pause for a moment to ponder why there is nothing but New Zealand lamb on offer, until you find yourself getting frustrated by your paradoxical helplessness as a consumer immersed in the runaway capitalism of a nouveau riche society, then toddle off to the FIVE A DAY zone for a pillow of reduced spinach and some fresh coriander. Entertain for a second the delusion that you have the power to choose which queue will get you past the checkout safest and quickest, then proceed directly to the one containing the invisible sixty-something with Parkinson’s and a fistful of vouchers. Be ready with your cool and calm response to the relentless inquisition of cards and points and schools and cash, then attempt to take home your purchases in the free carrier bags that are being repeatedly slashed open by the edges of the unfathomably large plastic cuboid that contains your meat. Check your watch to make sure you have at least five hours left before the time when you want the ordeal to be over, then go home and turn on your oven.

Take out and admire an array of blunt and heavy implements. Then smash up a fuck-load of garlic and pound some chilli, lots of it. Use a rake of chillies, dried, fresh, mix them up, it doesn’t matter. Just guess at how much you want to suffer and then add some more. Pulverise some coriander and fennel seeds, plenty of both. You must work as fast as you can to ensure you are running on your innate sense of reason and gut-feeling only; it is vital that you measure nothing. Smell the seeds to find out how much you want them, forget about the chillies, don’t shy away from the garlic. Mix it all together with some oil, salt and lemon to form a thick paste and then launch a frenzied stabbing attack on your shoulder. Rub into the dry wounds and spaces between fatty layers your gritty potion, and throw the job into the oven for a slow 2-hour roast.

Forget about your dinner. Do something less boring instead, such as install a dishwasher. But when your eyes start to water and you start to feel something tickle and rasp in the back of your throat, it’s time to sweat some onions and any celery, leeks or carrots that you have to hand, in oil in a large heavy pan. This is your pot, and it needs to be big. After a while throw in a little more fennel, coriander and chilli, but most importantly a load of turmeric. Let it all cook away until it smells like curry and has taken on a good deep yellow colour, and then tip in a good couple of cupfuls of water and let it boil. Empty-in your spinach, put the lid back on, and set about hacking the meat from the shoulder into rough chunks, fat, gristle and all. Throw it all into the pan along with the naked blade, making sure all is just submerged, and then top with a pound of peeled King Edwards chopped in half. A handful of salt, a lid, and back into an even slower oven for another two hours.

It doesn’t matter what you do next. Your house will slowly fill from bottom to top with deep meaty and spicy odours. After an hour, stop what you are doing to check things haven’t gone awry, spooning a few pools of sheepy fat over the tatties. Then, when the end is near, retrieve again your pot, transfer the surprisingly crispy potatoes to somewhere warm (i.e. the oven), remove the bone, stir in some yoghurt and any creamed coconut you might have, and return to the oven for five minutes to melt into a pale orange and green sludge while you roughly chop large handfuls of coriander.

You are ready to spoon it all into large bowls and eat. And you will find meat that falls apart at the mere prod of your fork, yellowing tatties full of unexpected earthy flavour, and a thick fatty sauce that warms and refreshes in equal doses. The unparalleled soothing qualities of the meal, you realize with smug self-satisfaction, are down to the lack of metrology. You are surprised by how good it has turned out, and will remember next time what needs to be adjusted to perfect your brew. What’s more, you will never again consider the twenty-fifth of January fit for Haggis.

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