FRENCH RAGOUT OF MUTTON
Recipe from Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated
by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway
A marriage between turnips and mutton does not, at first sight, appear to be the prelude to a culinary triumph. However, a present day version of this recipe proved unexpectedly good — well worth trying. This is food for cold weather. True mutton, meat from a sheep at least a year old, having almost disappeared from butchers, is staging a bit of a comeback following the efforts of some enterprising cooks and enthusiastic reports from food writers. Here lamb was used as it is, for the moment, still the more widely available. If you make this dish in late autumn or in winter, at least the lamb will be a little older, and more strongly flavoured, than the babies on sale at Easter and in the summer. It will also be the right time for new season’s young turnips.
For the ragout
• 1½ pounds chump (the next bit of the animal along from the top of the leg) boned and with any large pieces of fat removed and cut into generous pieces
• Flour — 1 dessert spoonful
• 1 sugar lump, salt and pepper
• 1/2 pint water or stock
• Butter for frying
For the turnips
• 1 pound young turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
• Butter for frying
Season the flour with salt and pepper and place in a plastic bag with the pieces of lamb. Holding the bag closed, give it a good shake so the meat gets coated with the flour.
Melt the butter in an ovenproof dish with a lid. Add the lamb and fry over a medium heat, turning the pieces so they get evenly browned.
Pour in the water or stock and stir making sure any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan are brought into the sauce. Bring to the boil, add the sugar lump, and simmer for a minute or two.
Put on the lid and bake in a 160C oven for about 40 minutes. Test the meat with a knife to see if is tender — if not give it another 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley.
About 20 minutes before serving melt a good lump of butter in a frying pan which will take the diced turnips in a single layer and fry them over a medium heat, moving and turning them about so that they brown but do not burn. Season with a little salt and pepper and serve with the lamb. A very basic way of cooking turnips, but surprisingly good!