Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Hank!


It’s my birthday this week which means it must be one year since you came into our lives… I guess that means your birthday was about eight weeks ago. I’m sorry we missed it, but how ‘bout we celebrate together this week instead?

It’s been 12 months since we brought you home in a cardboard box, so little when we first met.

But just a few weeks later we knew something was up… You were already the same size as your fully-grown new brother, Flip! Soon you were three times his size with a bark ten times as deep.

I don’t think it was easy for you to find your place in the family when Flip and I were already best buddies. I admit, the whole reason I chose you was because I loved him so much I thought the only thing that could be better was if I had two of him. But you have grown up to be different from Flip in almost every way, and yet I love you just as much!

Flip was quite jealous when you first arrived. I felt guilty and worried that I had done the wrong thing, that you and Flip would never see eye-to-eye and that you would have been better off somewhere else. But now you adore each other and we would all be less without you.

You are such a wonderful brother and mate to Flip and you make ST and I laugh endlessly. You are very clever – and naughty - the way you’ve taught yourself to jump over the fence to catch rabbits and scavenge for old roo bones. I’m not overjoyed about the amount of them that constantly scatter our lawn, but they make you and Flip happy and that’s the main thing. You don’t even mind sharing your catch with Flip, in fact a lot of the time I think he is the bossy little Lord Farquaad and you his faithful servant.

It’s funny how your mini-big dog stature has turned into a mini-big dog personality. Like life is all too hard when you’re a ‘big dog’ and you just need to have a nap. Right now. And all of the time.

It’s also pretty funny how absolutely terrified you are of the real ‘big dogs’.

You love to cuddle and snuggle. You love playing keepings-off Flip. And you love TV (not that you’re supposed to be inside)! You hate the rain, and thunder, and gunshots.

Remember that time you and Flip cornered that King Brown snake climbing the fence in the middle of the night? I threw you both in the house while ST and I “handled the situation” and later we couldn’t find you anywhere! We searched and scoured and called your name in every room of the house for 20 minutes before bringing Flip back inside to sniff you out. And there you were, curled up and frightened, between the bookshelf and the bed in the guest room. My poor baby.

And that other time when there was a Brown snake out the front and YOU ATE THROUGH THE CORD TO MY ENGLE FRIDGE (!!!) on the front veranda when I just trying to keep you safe! OK, let’s not remember that time, otherwise I’ll start on about the times you've done naughty things and tried to blame them on Flip!

And how you’ve recently started to pull clothes off the line and drag them around the yard (what is with that!?) and how you’ve kept me up two nights this week barking at… seriously, what ARE you barking at? I can’t see anything. Flip can’t see anything. There’s nothing there!

I swear to God, every time I see your head hit your paws today I’m going to shout your name. No naps for you!

You are lucky you’re cute, you big softy.

Happy Birthday Hank!

Love, Your Human xx

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stuffed Lamb Rib Flaps– The most delicious reason to have lamb for dinner this weekend

A FEW WEEKS back I had some requests for the Stuffed Lamb Rib Flaps recipe, so here it is!

I can’t take any credit for the idea. As far as I know people have been stuffing lamb flaps since the invention of lamb and stuffing, but I first discovered it when I moved to Burragan and was suddenly given all the cuts of an entire lamb to cook with. ST said, “Why don’t you stuff them like my mum does?” Now, I’m not stupid, and only a stupid person would try to replicate a dish perfected by their mother-in-law, but after a while I was sick of cutting them up into individual ribs and marinating them, so I decided to give stuffing them a go. And I am sure I never knew food-love before I knew Stuffed Lamb Rib Flaps.

One of the best parts of growing sheep and cattle is that we get to eat our own meat. ST’s Dad is an excellent butcher and he and ST use a bandsaw to cut up the sheep carcass (after it has hung in the cool room for a few days) into all the different cuts of meat you’d usually see in a butcher shop, and then some.

While lamb leg roasts, shoulders, chops and shanks are all cuts you see often, I don’t recall ever having lamb flaps before Burragan. They are the breast section of the sheep that is left over after you cut off the loin and the rack and… well, basically all the other cuts!

Lamb Rib Flap laying Rib Side Up

Sometimes you see it boned out and rolled up into a roast. Sometimes you see it sliced up into individual ribs (the kind you put sticky sauce on and cook on the BBQ). Stuffing them with the bones still in requires less butchering and if you’ve got nice meaty ribs it really is the stuff food heaven is made from.

To prepare your flaps:

The tips of the rib bones must be sliced a little way down with the bandsaw first to make them easier to cut with a kitchen knife. I’m sure you could ask your butcher to do this when you buy your flaps, otherwise if you have a meat cleaver and strong arm muscles I’m sure you could do it yourself.

Lamb Rib Flap laying Rib Side Down

Prepare your flaps by slicing off any really thick sections of fat from the top, careful not to cut into the very thin layers of meat.

Create a pocket between the ribs and the meat by using a sharp knife to make small cuts along the edge of the flaps, using your hands to slowly peel back the top layers of meat as you use the knife to go deeper into the pocket.

You can use your fingers to push the meat layers away from the ribs by running them back and forth inside the pocket. You don’t have to be gentle, it doesn’t matter how pretty it looks on the inside, but you do need to be careful to not cut through the back or the top of the pocket – you only want one opening and that’s at the front.

To make your stuffing:

If you’ve got a favourite stuffing recipe then feel free to go with that or do your own thing. I like to use whatever I have on hand and that can change depending on how recently I’ve been to the supermarket, but generally my stuffing recipe is like this:

Finely diced leek or onion, lots of crushed garlic, pine nuts or roughly chopped walnuts, sliced sundried tomatoes and a generous amount of chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, parsley, basil, chives, oregano etc. Use dried if you don’t have fresh. Add chilli if you like a bit of spice.

Fry it all up in a dash of oil or butter. If you’ve got some spinach or silver beat (or anything else green and leafy, aside from lettuce), finely slice a big handful and add that too. Add breadcrumbs (fresh bread ripped up or packet breadcrumbs), salt and pepper.

Turn the heat off and let it all cool for a bit before adding a couple of eggs. Mix it all together quickly to stop the egg from cooking on the warm frying pan base. If your mixture is too crumbly just add more egg, if it’s too runny add more breadcrumbs.

To stuff your flaps:

Make sure your stuffing is cool enough to handle with bare hands. Open up your flap pocket and stuff it, packing the stuffing together tightly.

Once you’ve stuffed your flaps as full as you can (wow, this is turning into a very saucy recipe!) while still able to close the top of the pocket, you need a really big skewer to weave through the top and bottom layers of the flap opening, to hold it closed. Knit the skewer between the rib bones, every third or fourth one along, and back through the top of the pocket etc. Depending on the size of the flap I can only ever get it to weave through about three times. This is fine.

Cooked version pictured, sorry, I forgot to take a photo before I cooked it!

Finishing touches:

Dress the outside of your flaps as you would a lamb roast. I like fresh rosemary and salt and pepper but other herbs, spices, lemon, and garlic also go well. You can toss any roast veggies such as potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, eggplant etc. around the flaps before you chuck them in the oven, or prepare something else on the side like harissa spiced sweet potato wedges.

Cook the flaps for about an hour on a moderate heat. I don’t think you can really over cook them, as long as they’re not burnt!
When they’re out of the oven use a large, sharp knife to slice between each rib, carving off individual stuffed ribs. Serve with your roast veggies and some steamed greens. Or save them 'til the next day and eat cold!