Lamb a la boatyard - the tale of the outdoor slow cooker
Saying that you aren't always up for a BBQ is up there with suggesting that Jerusalem is "perhaps a bit droney", or admitting that you aren't really up for another cup of tea. In other words, just not the done thing. There is a time and a place for an under done sausage and some cremated kebabs but, in my humble opinion, they can be a bit fiddly. This is where the outdoor slow cooker comes into play. As the theory goes, you light the charcoal, shove in your ingredients for slow cooking, leave the cauldron to bubble away, and come back to a perfectly cooked dinner. Turns out this theory is exactly what happens in practice.
We took the slow cooker and charcoal hob down to the boatyard to really put it to the test. There are no cooking facilities down there and, after a day of shovelling rubbish and slapping paint on the bilge, we would have definitely built up an appetite for something hearty.
Our main query was what to put in it. The main candidates for slow cooking are of course lamb and beef and, despite being a mere stone's throw from the sea, we opted for lamb. Fish is another option to be explored but, given that we didn't plan on watching the pot too closely, we wanted something that would be forgiving and tricky to overcook.
The recipe here was very fast and loose. We had picked up some ingredients earlier in the day and, alongside the lamb, opted for some prunes, olives, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and onion. This was mixed with garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cumin seeds, paprika, a couple of tins of tomatoes and a healthy glug of red wine. The quantities here are a bit vague. No weighing scales at the boatyard and we were keen not to have any leftover odds and ends of ingredients to take home. We had briefly wondered about following a more conventional approach to casseroles - browning the meat, starting off sweating the onions - but, running out of both daylight and time, we just stuck the whole lot in. In for a penny, in for a pound. Our only concession was to leave the red pepper in large chunks so they wouldn't disappear entirely.
Like witches, we threw more and more into the cauldron until it was filled to about an inch from the top. The charcoal was lit in the bowl and we put the lamb on to get cooking. The liquid element was provided by the two tins of tomatoes and the glug of red wine. This didn't quite cover the ingredients and so we added a further glug of water. In hindsight, we needn't have added any more liquid and the mixed ingredients being on the drier side would have been fine.
We gave the cauldron a final stir and then stood around for a bit wondering what to do. Dinner prep was done in all of ten minutes and it was now in the hands of the slow cooker. We took the executive decision to leave it to get on with its thing and wandered off to slap another coat of paint on the bilge. An hour later, the magic seemed to be happening, the cooker was up to a good steady simmer so, with dinner in hand, we went off for a swim.
Needless to say, we had serious post-swim munchies and, fortunately, by the time we were back it was ready. The camera was abandoned and we armed ourselves with some forks and a baguette to tuck in. By "tuck in", I actually mean "set upon it like savages who hadn't eaten in a week". The big reveal when we finally took the lid off is below...
The lamb was on the burner for between 2.5 and 3 hours cooking time. We left it on there while we ate to keep it warm before hoiking it off and using the glowing coals for marshmallows.
A resounding success. We are now concocting other recipes that can be left to cook and that maximise the slow cooked flavours with minimal ingredients and prep time. Some sort of jerk goat with chunks of sweet potato. Or beef slow cooked with pickled onions and wine. Or having a more watchful eye on some sort of fish stew.