Gigot à la Mode de Gascogne

Gascony-Style Lamb

This is a dish best prepared in the summer, as soon as possible after the garlic harvest. It is important that the Provençal garlic is fat, juicy and mild. But it is a beautiful way to cook what I regard as a British meat; Welsh or Dartmoor lamb is unrivalled in France. In some ways this would be my favourite dish to cook for French friends in the south. I’ve cooked the dish in England in July with garlic I’ve brought back from Uzès but now I plan to prepare it in France for my friends there.

I shall hurry south carrying a magnificent leg of Devon spring lamb maturing nicely in the cool box. As soon as I arrive I shall buy a plait of the new garlic and will set about preparing what will be a veritable feast. Later that evening everyone will arrive, the Marquets, the Doize sisters, M. Broc and his wife and my English friends Susan and Harry from a few miles away. There will be plenty of wine, some of Jean Marquet’s and some from the caves in the next village and Harry will probably bring a bottle of his special Notre Dame des Neiges white wine. We will eat the splendid English lamb with French garlic. They will say that they are surprised at the high quality of the meat and we will congratulate them on the new season’s garlic. There will be much laughter and plenty to talk about, lots of gossip to catch up on, a full report on the ravages of the winter and for me, another happy evening of eating and talking will be added to so many already in my memory.

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Ingredients

  • 1 good-sized leg of lamb, with the bone, in one piece
  • a little lard fumé or smoked streaky bacon, cut in slivers
  • 1 clove of garlic, cut in slivers
  • a knob of butter
  • salt, milled pepper
  • 1 wineglass dry white wine
  • 1 wineglass stock or water
  • a bouquet of thyme, bay leaf and parsley
  • 1 onion stuck with cloves
  • 30 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced

Method

Make small slits all over the lamb and push the slivered bacon and garlic into them.

Melt the butter in a large cast-iron casserole and turn the lamb over in it until lightly coloured. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and stock to the casserole with the bouquet garni and the onion. Cover and cook very gently over low heat on the hob for 2–3 hours or cook in a slow oven (Mark 3, 160°C, 325°F) for 2–3 hours.

Half-way through the cooking time, bring 150 ml(¼ pt) water to boil in a pan, add the garlic, simmer for 1 minute and add the contents of the pan to the casserole, turning the meat over at the same time.

When the meat is cooked and beautifully tender transfer to a hot serving dish or carving plate. Skim off surplus fat from the casserole and discard the bouquet garni and onion. Press the remaining liquor and garlic through a sieve into a pan and add the tomatoes. Bring the sauce to the boil, check for seasoning and serve with the lamb.

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