Having provided the catering only the weekend before for another Christening (they seem to be coming in waves currently); I thought I could replicate the main menu of Pork Belly with roasted apples and fried slices of spiced polenta. Alas, my Mother isn't as easy to please as my clients. Although the cost of Pork Belly is relatively low; the innumerable telephone calls that I received about the potential pitfalls of Pork Belly and ensuing campaign to change the menu was actually a relatively high 'time' price to pay and I should have really succumbed much earlier. Why is it that Mother's simply can't get to the point?
Essentially, the brief was to cater 'joined-up meat' to all 40 plus guests and entourage of children but without going overboard on the budget. Bear in mind that over the weekend we probably hosted 100 people in the back garden with 45 people taking a seat at the assembled long table (basically lots of long tables bunched together with a number of table clothes) in the sitting room for the main meal each day. So what do you serve that tastes great but doesn't cost a small fortune? Clearly not Belly Pork, as my mother has an aversion to asking the Daily to clean the oven. Well to be honest, she has an aversion to asking the Daily to do any hard cleaning, as my mother tends to clean the house before she arrives each day! So with Belly Pork officially off the menu as my mother felt that it was not a popular dish (no matter how I would cook it) because of the fat, I had to think hard about what I was going to create that needed so little care and could stay in the oven for many an hour.
After some deliberation over the telephone with Man (read: rant about mother's inability say why she didn't like menu), he mentioned calmly that perhaps I should do a dish I'd made several weekends before for him. A lovely shoulder of lamb is similarly priced to Belly Pork and can sit in the oven for up to 5 hours bubbling away without much more than a brief look-see to check that it's actually cooking. I've found that over the years, that slow roasting really is the only way to handle large family events or parties, it gives plenty of time for chores to be completed and means you can make cheaper cuts of meat into a really sumptuous meal - filling the house with the most amazing smell!
We roasted FIVE shoulders of lamb in the RangeMaster. Thankfully we have a big old cooker otherwise we'd have been scuppered. I do wish I had a photo of all five lamb shoulders lined up, sitting on the crispy potatoes waiting for my brother to cut/shred them. It was quite a sight and draw many and 'ooohh' and 'ahhhh' from the guests. It also seemed to draw many a 'helper' who insisted that they were simply moving lamb to platter for serving. I may point out that perhaps only two-thirds of the lamb made it to any platter, the remaining third seemed to vanish into a number of 'helpers' tummies.
Chantilly carrots, braised red cabbage and the boulangere potatoes pilled high on everyone's plate along with the most tender and moist lamb. Every guest returned for a second helping of lamb before tucking into the amazing array of puddings.
Admittedly, I had to take myself off with the really old folk (my Granny who's 97) for a little snooze after lunch. I couldn't admit to over eating, so pretended the 06.30 cooking start had wiped me out!