When Sweeney Todd is falsely convicted of a crime, he is shipped to a distant penal colony in Australia. (If you have never read The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes I strongly suggest it; but I digress.) I remember eating a fabulous meat pie in Australia made with lamb, which is prolific in the land down under. When Sweeney returns to London, he is befriended by Mrs. Lovett who inspires a plan for revenge involving “special” meat pies. It is inevitable that I must give you a meat pie recipe. Although I usually offer quick-to-prepare recipes, this is fun to make, even though it takes a while. Here’s my Aussie version, with a tip of the hat to Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett.
You can make this as one big pie for eight people, or as little individual pies in cupcake holders to bring to the opera for your pre-show picnic.
5 lb. leg of lamb (hopefully organic)
A dozen peeled cloves garlic (at least, but can be more if you are not kissing too much)
1 large carrot
2 sticks celery
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped into small pieces
Bunch fresh rosemary
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup free-range chicken stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Zest half lemon and squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
Egg wash (whipped egg whites)
Store-bought pre-rolled short crust pastry (or, of course, your own)
Store-bought pre-rolled puff pastry (ditto)
Get out your roasting pan
Preheat oven to 350˚
Prepare and mix together: The carrot cut into rounds; the leek and celery, sliced; the chopped onion, half the garlic, the rosemary and 2 cups white wine.
Put all in the bottom of your roasting pan.
Place the metal meat rack on top of the veggies and set aside.
Take the lamb and using a small sharp knife, pierce 10 deep slits into the meat, into which you add the remaining garlic cloves and rosemary. Place lamb onto the meat rack in the roasting dish, cover with olive oil and season with sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Place in the oven and for cook for 20 minutes at 350˚F before turning down to 300˚F. Roast for 6 hours.
After three hours, remove from the oven and take all the veggies out using a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and set aside. You can baste the lamb then as well. Return the lamb to the oven.
After six hours, when the meat is ready, remove it from the roasting pan and allow to rest for 20 minutes before shredding with two forks or your hands. The meat will be very crumbly and moist, super stringy and literally should fall away from the leg bone. Transfer all meat to a mixing bowl and discard the bone and any excess fatty bits.
Place the roasting pan along with all its juices on the stove and set it over medium heat. Add the remaining white wine, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest and juice, balsamic vinegar and ground nutmeg. Stir and simmer often over low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes to infuse flavors and to incorporate any bits left on the bottom of the pan during roasting. Thicken with flour or cornmeal if you need to.
Add the meat and veggies to the sauce and stir to coat well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grease either your family-sized pie dish or cupcake trays with butter, line with the short crust pastry and then freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer, add the filling and top with puff pastry sealing the edges well. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350˚ F. until pastry is golden brown on top and cooked through on the bottom.
Since the lamb takes six hours to roast, feel free to do this the day before and store the meat in a plastic container, along with the veggies and some of the juices from the pan, overnight in the fridge.
(Excerpt from Francesca’s Traveling iPad e-newsletters. To sign up for more recipes and updates from Francesca, click here.)