Take one salt marsh lamb, a butcher, a good cook and a convivial host and what have you got?
You’ve got a lamb masterclass in the middle of Birmingham, that’s what you’ve got.
Kitchen School, run by Jayne Bradley Ghosh, is one of a growing number of food schools and supper clubs that have popped up over the city in the last five or six years. You can lean how to make bread, Chinese dumplings and cook stuff you find in hedges at Loaf in Stirchley (loafonline.co.uk); Caribbean cooking is showcased with Tan Rosie in sun-splashed Erdington (tanrosie.com); whizzy Michelinery is demystified at Simpsons in Edgbaston (simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk); and pasta, preserves and knife skills are demonstrated at Harborne Food School (harbornefoodschool.co.uk).
There are plenty of other professional and semi-professional cookery lessons and authentic home dining events on offer in Birmingham. If you run one, tell me. (email: email@example.com)
I was drawn to a recent lamb masterclass at Kitchen School in Edgbaston for two reasons. First and foremost, host Jayne, who also runs Edible Eastside in Digbeth, promised there would be plenty of wine. (There was.) Second, the lesson was run by Jason Hyde of Roger Brown’s in Harborne.
Brown’s is unquestionably Birmingham’s finest butcher. I’ve been spending my hard-earned cash there for two decades. If it’s good enough for an archbishop, which it is, God’s Butcher is good enough for me.
Walking into Jayne’s imposing home, which doubles as her supper club venue, I do what any self-respecting dinner guest does and head straight to the kitchen.
Laid out on a huge wooden table is a whole lamb, less head and tail and skin. What strikes you is the colour of the flesh, which is pinky, rose-hued. There is no discernible smell. For a person who admires the beauty of a well-prepared animal carcass, it’s interesting to see it outside its usual environs in a butchers, slap bang in the middle of a domestic kitchen.
The beast in question weighs about 19 kilogrammes and was killed a week ago. Until then, it lived out the final months of its life on the salt marshes of Wales, feasting on the salty herbage of sea purslane and samphire that lends the meat a distinctive sweetness. The French kill for l’agneau pré-salé, which has a lower fat content and none of the “high” quality associated with older hill lamb.
Over the next hour and a half, Jason butchers the animal into the individual cuts, from the fancy-pants rack to the humble belly. Nothing goes to waste – and when the meat is this good, why should it?
The cuts are then handed straight to chef Chris Hughes, who goes to work on turning the meat into our dinner.
While we watch and learn, we are handed tasty shots of mint and pea soup with lamb confit and, a genuine first for me, lamb tartare. I was suspicious about the latter but I have to say it’s one of my favourite nibbles of the night. The leg meat is finely chopped, marinated in lemon and served with capers and Parmesan cheese. It is utterly moreish.
Later, the party assembles around several small tables in Jayne’s large dining room and enjoys a starter of breast of lamb which has been slow-cooked in hay for six hours. Chris serves it “pulled lamb” style with an anchovy mayonnaise, plum pickle, radishes and watercress.
Delicious lamb loin is rolled in a herb crust and cooked beautifully pink with lamb merguez, sweetbreads (a personal favourite) and an earthy kidney. If you have a family member or friend who thinks lamb is too strong for their tastes, try loin from the salt marshes. It has an eating quality of fillet steak, but firmer, and a clean, non-cloying taste.
Throughout dinner, there are lashings of very drinkable Rioja and pinot noir. The evening finishes with a boozy, refreshing Pimms jelly accompanied by a cucumber sorbet and candied mint.
If you love food and are interested in finding out what goes into producing superb quality meat, the £60-ahead dinner, including aperitifs, wine and Jason’s hugely enjoyable, non-fussy masterclass, represents terrific value.
A venison masterclass is planned later in the year (October 16) as part of The Kitchen School’s series of seasonal supper clubs. Jayne and her team also run a series of regular cookery classes for all levels and there are plans afoot for new projects.
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Roger Brown’s, 6 Northfield Road, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 0SS – facebook.com/brownsofharborne