Last night my husband and I shared one of the most beautiful meals we have ever eaten together. I am very proud to say that I cooked this meal. I am also proud to say that it took me about 15 minutes from turning on the oven to putting it onto our plates. We couldn’t speak to each other as we were eating it, it was just so delicious.
It was all just so simply cooked, a brief sealing in a hot pan on both sides to brown the lamb steaks, 10 minutes in a very hot oven to cook to desired pinkness, seasoned with salt and pepper, rested for three minutes, during which time I wilted the rainbow chard. There we had it, a meal fit for a King, Queen or dedicated foodie.
The simplicity of the whole process got me to thinking about what makes a truly memorable meal. The answer must be truly memorable produce. Last night’s lamb required no sauces or fancy cooking processes because the star of the whole event was the quality of the lamb. I’m not against sauces; I love a tangy salsa verde on beautifully roasted meat. Regular readers will know how keen I am on a perfectly reduced jus. It’s just that this delectable lamb steak required nothing more than judicious cooking, seasoning, and a bitter green vegetable to balance out its richness.
I think that one of the key skills of cooking is learning how to buy good ingredients. I am eternally grateful to my mother for not only teaching me how to cook, but also, teaching me about the importance of shopping for the best ingredients. I kid you not, she would ask to inspect the butcher’s wares before purchasing them and if they didn’t meet the mark, she would leave empty-handed, informing me with a stage whisper ‘The gristle running through that steak will never cook down, I’ll be taking my money to Mr Jones across the road who doesn’t save his best meat for particular customers’.
I also recall her going back to a greengrocer the day after she had bought potatoes that didn’t conform to her high specifications and informing him that the said potatoes had broken down to a mush on boiling and she wouldn’t be buying them again.
On reflection, this is all so interesting to me. My mother was a gentle soul, very far from a battleaxe who terrorised shop keepers. It’s just that she took her obligations to feed her family seriously. Interestingly, the shop keepers didn’t take offence at my mum’s approach. In fact, I distinctly remember the greengrocer agreeing with her and saying he wouldn’t be buying them again either and that he’d told his supplier as much.
I understand now that my mother had a different relationship with the people from whom she bought her food. It was a closer, more respectful relationship, based on trust and expertise, that allowed for immediate feedback. I hasten to add that she would also chat with shopkeepers, for what seemed like far too long to me, extolling the virtues of various produce she had bought from them.
The lamb steaks I bought for last night’s dinner were purchased from a farmer at our local farmers’ market. I was able to contact him on Twitter the same night and tell him how delicious they were. We also exchanged thoughts on England v Wales in the rugby. I suppose akin to my mum’s chats with the greengrocer. I will buy some more lamb at the next market, confident it will be just as delicious. The rainbow chard was also from a local producer and following my mum’s example, I’ll tell him just how tasty his produce was the next time I see him.
The farm is Bryn Cocyn Farm and website address is: