If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll soon have come across my passion for leftovers. Economy is one reason: why on earth should we throw good food away? And, notice I said good food. I’m not going to chew my way through something rugged and tasteless just to be virtuous. When I buy a joint of meat, I’m often thinking about getting two or more meals out of it – and this is useful and clever thinking, because a large piece of meat is often better value, and cooks better in the first place; more room for the juices to flow, and less likelihood of it getting all dried up and leathery.
There is also the moral argument that I’ve mentioned before; if I’m going to eat meat, I have to be aware that it came from a living creature. It is just wrong on so many levels to throw parts of it away.
The simplest thing you can do with leftover lamb is to make a tasty sandwich. Nice, thin slices, hopefully still a little pink and juicy, with a blob of redcurrant jelly, mayonnaise or grainy mustard, on your favourite bread. Easy, yet often neglected, when we wouldn’t think twice about using chicken or beef in the same way.
Or, stuff some of the lamb into split toasted pitta breads, with some salad and some chilli sauce.
Leftover cooked lamb makes a good curry; I’m not going to give recipe for that here, but you can knock a quick curry together in almost no time at all by using pre-cooked meat.
What I am going to give you is a casserole, or stew, of roast lamb leftovers. I can’t call it a recipe, because it’s obvious that I don’t know how much meat you’ll have available, and it is as usual vague as to what you can put with it. What have you got, what’s available in the shops, what do you like? It’s a method, if you like, that can be infinitely adapted. And, of course, if it’s good for leftover lamb roast, it’ll surely be a decent template for leftover beef, leftover chicken, leftover pork…
Although there is no strict definition that everyone agrees on, a casserole is made in the oven, a stew on the hob. If making a casserole, save washing up by using a pan that can be used both on the flame and in the oven.
Remove any unappealing bits such as bones, gristle, sinew and large chunks of fat, and cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. Slice or chunky-chop some peeled root vegetables such as onion, carrot, celery and/or celeriac, turnip, swede – as I said above, whatever you like. I love garlic, and will add quite a lot here, as it mellows out considerably in a long cooking; peel and chop roughly. All in all, I like about half and half veg to meat, but of course this is an ideal vehicle for making a little meat stretch a long way, so by all means use a higher ratio of vegetables.
Brown the meat in a little oil, in batches if necessary so it doesn’t crowd the pan, then set aside and keep warm. Brown the chopped veg in the same pan with a little more oil if needed. Return everything to the pan, and add stock, wine, water, or a combination, to cover. Add some herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and/or bay leaf – fresh is usually best, but this is another occasion where that old pack of dried herbs would be okay. Add a good couple of grinds of black pepper and a pinch or two of salt.
Bring to the boil on the cooker top, then reduce to a slow simmer, either still on the hob, or in a low to medium oven. Cook on for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the veg are soft. You could easily let this bubble away for almost as long as you like, but it will be best before the veg disintegrate.
And that’s it. Serve with mashed potato, noodles, crusty bread or as you like.
A tin or two of chopped plum tomatoes (or some very ripe, skinned, fresh ones if available, depending on the season) go very well with lamb: add after the other ingredients have been browned. You could add beans, lentils or pearl barley to this; it’s a very open canvas.