Thursday, April 16, 2009

out with beef, in with hogget

I’ve not been able to think deep thoughts nor spin them into equally deep word-webs for my readers these past few columns, but am satisfied to suggest to you what to eat (mostly from ingredients that are seasonal and local and can be got at, you guessed it, the Co-op and the Farmers’ Market) and follow that up with a recipe.

Who knows why this is the state of my brain, but those are the facts – I’m properly shut up, I think, by the sudden cessation of anger and worry that came about like an eclipse in November, and even more strikingly in January.

I recognize this as a state of shock, and I believe many others are suffering from it, too. This winter has been a cold but careless time in the true sense of without a care. Remember the old Smothers’ Brothers routine where the brothers are playing along together, then Dick suddenly stops playing and says, to the other brother, “Take it Tommy,” and Tommy falters and looks bemused and everything goes haywire? Well, that’s what I’m saying, “You take it, Obama.” But in this case Obama is taking it in stride, except that his eyelids are becoming purple with exhaustion.

I want to take him aside and give him some cod liver oil. That would fix him up royally.

But today, I’m not talking about fish. I’m talking about hogget.

Ann Tiplady, of the Wallingford Red Houses Farm, is out of grass-fed, free-range beef for a month or two. Business has been good for that delicious stuff.

Hear this baby call its mutter
All she has left is what she calls mutton, ground mutton, with which to make mutton-burgers. More correctly, she would call it Hogget, but that would mean that no-one would understand what she was talking about. What she is talking about is the meat taken from a sheep, a little older than a lamb, and with, she thinks, and I agree, more agreeable flavor. Wikipedia classifies them like this:
  • Lamba young sheep under 12 months of age which does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear [?]
  • Hoggeta young male sheep or maiden ewe having no more than two permanent incisors in wear
  • Muttona female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear.
That's a New Zealand definition, but I must say Ann's mutton is very tasty, and I believe it is not old enough to be called mutton, but of the age that it should, instead, be looked upon as hogget. By the way, “in wear” means, Ann tells me, that the incisors have grown in all the way and are being used.

After a wonderful Easter dinner of perfectly done rack of lamb, I was loathe to cook mutton-burgers plain, and the hogget was defrosted and ready to be cooked. So I googled recipes using ground lamb. I found nothing satisfactory.

Then I remembered the wonderful Claudia Roden's Arabesque, the gorgeous book I have not cooked from anywhere near as much as it begs to be cooked from. "A taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon," it boasts. I got it down from the shelf and in short shrift (ignoring the beautiful paper and photographs and words – all business, in other words) found a recipe for spiced lamby-balls that would do nicely for my purposes.

Meatballs with Pine Nuts in Tomato Sauce
otherwise called Daoud Basha, after a 19th century Governor of Lebanon
adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Rodin

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 pound lean ground lamb, hogget, or mutton
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (see note below)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Grate, or finely chop the onion in the food processor, drain, and turn them into a bowl. Add the ground lamb with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice, and work into a paste with your hands. Add the pine nuts and work them thoroughly into the paste. Roll the mixture into small walnut-sized balls. (Alternatively, form the balls, then press 3 or 4 pine-nuts into each ball, rubbing the depression to enclose them).

Pour a little olive oil into a casserole, rather shallow, about the size of a deep pie-plate, place the mutton balls into the oil and shake a bit to coat them with olive oil. Put the casserole into the oven for 20 minutes.

For the sauce, cut up the tomatoes and liquify them in the food processor. Add a little salt and pepper, the wine, the lemon juice, the sugar, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes. (Alternatively, use a good, bottled tomato sauce if you like, and doctor it up with the wine, juice, pepper flakes and garlic). Pour over the meatballs and bake them for another 35 minutes, turning the meatballs once.

Serve with plain rice.

Now these were good! And simple to make, and the leftovers were oh, so luscious sliced in half and eaten on a slice of buttered Bear Mountain Honey Oatmeal Bread.

So, that’s that for now. Off I go into the wild blue yonder to rake before it rains, and perhaps all that fresh air will get my synapses snapping in time for more of a diatribe next time!


DK said...

Ummm, Ummm, Ummm......could you send me a Hogget Ball in the mail?

Penny said...

This looks like a great recipe. David wants you to send him a hogget meatball in the mail. We are looking into getting bison from an acquaintance who raises buffalo.

jakelove said...

Baaa, baaa, baa-eautifully tasting post to an exemplary 'blog.' Dare i say 'blogget?' Keep up the great work and have a Happy Birthday!