This casserole is exactly as simple as it needs to be, which is to say, it is exceptionally complicated. I make no apology for this. Each step has its reason, and the reason is that it’s worth it. If you want an easy life, stay tuned for next week’s slow roast shoulder recipe. It is delicious. But if your obsession for the perfect casserole is equal to mine, you will learn here everything I know about how to make it, and in a fraction of the time I took to discover it.
- 1 hogget shank
- 1 hogget knuckle
- 1 hogget neck
- About 1 litre flavourful liquid e.g best quality lamb, chicken or beef stock, beer, red wine or any combination of these (see note below)
- 4 large onions
- 2 stalks of celery
- 3 large carrots/8 small carrots
- 1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary, thyme, parsley and/or oregano tied with a small piece of string)
- 2 large parsnips
- 1 small celeriac
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Knob of butter
- 1 tbsp honey or demerara sugar
Season the meat and fry in a flame-proof casserole dish over a hot heat until well browned all over. Remove the meat and deglaze the dish with a little stock/wine. The browning adds flavour to the meat and the deglazing ensures that the flavour of the little bits that stick to the pan is not lost.
Create a vegetable trivet by putting a couple of stalks of celery, a carrot sliced lengthways down the middle, and an onion cut into 1cm thick rounds on the bottom of the casserole dish. The trivet vegetables will be cooked so long that their texture becomes undesirable but their flavour will enrich the sauce.
Arrange the browned meat on the trivet of vegetables – top up with liquid to just below the level of the meat. Add the bouquet garni. By using a minimum of liquid, the flavour from the meat won’t be diluted but will be concentrated within an intense sauce. The meat sits atop the trivet and almost steams, rather than boils.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hrs at 140C or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cooked for too long, the meat will lose flavour. Check regularly and stop cooking once the right level of tenderness is reached.
Once cooled remove the pieces of meat and put to one side. Wring out and discard the vegetable trivet but retain the braising liquid. Allowing the meat to cool in the liquid causes it to draw up the moisture and avoids it drying out.
Fry the remaining onions in a little oil until very well browned. Grate the parsnips and celeriac and fry in oil until very well browned. Combine all these vegetables and pour over the braising liquid. Simmer over a very low flame until sauce thickens. Shred the meat by hand and mix through the sauce. Season the casserole to taste. Cooking the vegetables separately gives greater control over their texture. You can cook the casserole up to this step well in advance – the flavour improves with a night in the fridge.
Cut remaining carrots into rounds/oblique shapes. Place in a saucepan with a knob of butter, pinch of salt and honey/demerara sugar. Add just enough water to cover the carrots and bring to the boil and simmer until tender (approx 8 mins). Add carrots to casserole and serve. Cooking the carrots in this way preserves their colour, which helps greatly with presentation of the casserole.
Notes on stock
“Flavourful liquid” glosses over a great deal of hidden work that went into this recipe. I started with my best quality chicken stock – made in a pressure cooker from well-roasted chicken carcasses. I then roasted ALL of the unused hogget bones and all the vegetable ends and peelings from the entire seven course meal, added those to the strained chicken stock and effectively made a double stock. I then added half a bottle of red wine, half a bottle of beer and the liquid from pressure cooking caramelised onions to the stock and reduced this down into the “flavourful liquid” that I made the casserole with.
I cannot in good conscience recommend that you engage in this kind of madness, but I will observe that it did taste bloody good.