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A day for St David

by
14 February 2014

by Simon Walsh

iStock

MARCH is ushered in by St David's Day on the 1st. Apparently, his followers at the monastery he founded refrained from meat and beer, settling instead for bread and water. Quite how he would have taken to the many variants of the Welsh lamb stew, cawl, is another matter. By now, the meat is more mature and flavoursome, hogget or even mutton, and makes for a perfect Lamb casserole. This one brings in influences from Brittany and Cornwall, where he was also active.

450g (1 lb) cubed lamb
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 50g (2 oz) tin anchovies, with oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 tin (197g/14 oz) chopped  tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
2 large field mushrooms, sliced
300ml (½ pt) red wine
1 stock cube (lamb or beef)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 slices of white toast

Coat the lamb in some seasoned flour, then heat a little oil in a flameproof casserole and fry off the meat until brown. Remove to a plate, and throw into the casserole the garlic, anchovies, and onion. Fry together until the onion just starts to brown.

Add the chopped tomatoes, capers, and mushrooms, stirring over the heat for a few minutes. Make the wine up to 600ml (1 pint) with the boiling water, crumble in the stock cube, then add to the casserole, with the lamb, and bring everything to the boil. Turn down, season, stir in the oregano, cover, and place in the oven at 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 for 45 minutes.

Roughly chop the slices of toast into small crumbs, and scatter over the top. Bake for a further 30 minutes, this time uncovered, and serve with boiled potatoes.

David is the patron saint of poets, and Dylan Thomas was one great son of Wales whose birth centenary we mark this year. A sense of faith suffused much of his work, but I am taking a cue from his Under Milk Wood to give a recipe for Junket. This has been around for centuries, although everyone seems more interested in panna cotta these days. Rennet is not easy to find, but is well worth the effort. Use full-cream or gold-top milk (never UHT).

568ml (1 pt) whole milk
1 dessertspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon essence of rennet
optional flavouring: 2 teaspoons of orange flower/rose water or  tablespoon rum/brandy
nutmeg

Heat the milk and sugar to "blood heat": not to the boil, but warm enough to dip your finger in without discomfort. Stir in the flavouring first, if being used, and then the rennet, giving a quick but gentle stir - no more, as it will start toset, and you do not want it to break up.

Pour into one large shallow dish, or divide between four bowls; grate nutmeg over the top, and leave to stand for 30 minutes or so. Once it is set, you may chill and serve it with cream, if you like.

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