Richard Briggs Roast Mutton with Oysters
Mutton is hardly eaten at all in England nowadays. but it is an excellent meat well worth reviving. Here are two recipes for roast mutton with oysters, a popular dish in the eighteenth century. The earlier is that of the court cook Charles Carter, who advocates wrapping a shoulder of mutton in a caul. This stops the oysters from falling out of the little slits in the meat. The other recipe is that of the tavern cook Richard Briggs, who also offers an economic alternative - stuffing a leg of mutton with cockles.
Click on Richard Brigg's recipe above to go to a larger version
Receipt to Roast Mutton.
Gently stir and blow the fire,
On the dresser see it lie;
On the table spread the cloth,
Although not mentioned in either Brigg's or Carter's recipes for Mutton with Oysters, most roasted joints were dusted towards the end of roasting with various flour, breadcrumb, herb and spice mixtures called 'dredgings'. Robert May gives a useful list of dredgings in The Accomplisht Cook (1660). Before dredging took place, the joint was usually basted. After a generous sprinkling of a highly seasoned 'dredging', the combination of hot fat and flour on the surface of the meat creates a frothy coating. This 'froth' was much esteemed by the English and is frequntly alluded to in roasting instructions in eighteenth century cookery books. The dredging has to be very carefully carried out at a good distance from the fire by using a flour caster. Any final basting has to be very gently and lightly applied, or the froth can fall off into the dripping pan. In the final stages of roasting, the spit is brought closer to the fire in order to create the browning that Dean Swift loved so much.
Sausages made with mutton and oysters were also popular with late Stuart diners. Ivan has been making them for about thirty years. In the early days of the mutton renaissance, Ivan and his great friend Andrew Sharp (Farmer Sharp) used some of Andrew's Lakeland Herdwick and some Pyefleet Oysters to make oyster sausages for a Mutton Renaissance dinner for Prince Charles
Mutton was also sometimes larded with strips of bitter orange or lemon peel and spiked with rosemary. It was served with sauces made with samphire, broom buds or caper buds.
It is high time that mutton regained its important position in the British culinary tradition, but very few butchers stock it. Go to Links to find out where to buy the finest Herdwick Mutton.
Right: In the seventeenth century samphire was served as an accompaniment to mutton, usually in the form of a sauce. This succulent marshplant was also pickled and stored in earthenware gallipots
Dripping pudding, later called Yorkshire Pudding, started its life under roasting mutton rather than as a a foil to roast beef
A shoulder of mutton with oysters in the early stages of roasting
A plain leg of mutton being 'frothed'.
The basted and dredged leg being 'browned' close to the fire
Larding a leg of mutton with strips of orange peel.