When it comes to food writing, Jay Rayner is king. The award-winning restaurant critic for The Observer and regular judge on MasterChef is both feared and respected amongst chefs.
His well-crafted and brutally honest reviews can make or break a restaurant, but does he display the same prowess in his own kitchen?
“I’m good enough for what I do,” he confesses. “Fortunately I’m employed because of the way I write to sell newspapers, not because of how I cook!
“I find it a really calming thing to do. I’m all about alpha male show cookery. I don’t do pastry or desserts. I’m at my most happy when something is braising long and slow on the weekend. If everything is basically right and you leave it long enough, you can’t make a mistake.”
His go-to recipe is braised shoulder of lamb (“If you have to use a knife to carve it, you’ve done it wrong”), served with his “legendary” roast potatoes and salad. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “It’s all about the ‘boshing’.”
In addition to his regular food column, Jay has also published four non-fiction books including My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out, and A Greedy Man in a Hungry World, as well as four novels, and his latest book Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights: A journey deeper in dining hell, an account of “20 miserable meals”, is published this month.
Braised shoulder of lamb
- A 2-2.5kg shoulder of lamb
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
- A large onion, roughly chopped
- Half a bottle of reasonable red wine
- 2 cooking chorizo sausages, or half a chorizo ring, sliced
- 2 pints of chicken stock (from cube is fine)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Pouring honey
1. Heat the oven to 170°C.
2. Meanwhile heat a deep roasting tin big enough to take the whole shoulder of lamb, on the stove top. Pour in the olive oil. Season the lamb shoulder liberally with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides. This is a lengthy job and will require you to stand over it, tipping the piece of meat this way and that with tongs to make sure it’s as well browned as possible. Don’t be too obsessive. Just some colour is good. When done, remove from the roasting tin to a plate.
3. Add the onion and the chorizo and cook until it’s caramelised, and then the garlic and cook for a minute more.
4. Deglaze with the red wine, scraping away at any bits on the bottom. Boil on a high heat for two minutes to burn off the alcohol.
5. Top up with the chicken stock, throw in the brown sugar and stir.
6. Return the lamb shoulder to the pan. The liquor should at least cover it by half. If it’s a particularly square, deep piece, add another pint of stock.
7. Cover the whole tin with foil and place in the oven for four hours.
8. Check it’s cooked by sticking two forks into the meat and pulling them apart. The meat should come away easily. If not return to the oven for another half an hour.
9. Carefully strain the liquor into a pan, and begin to reduce over a moderate heat. Reduce by two thirds. Adjust seasoning to taste. You now have your gravy. Indeed, you’ll have far too much. I suggest you freeze some for another day and another dish.
10. Meanwhile – drizzle the lamb with the runny honey. Turn the oven on to grill, and return the meat to the oven, basting with any honey that dribbles off every five minutes. After ten minutes it should be dark and sticky.
11. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and rest for a good 20 minutes.
Recipe – © ‘Ten Commandments of Food’ by Jay Rayner0