A leek and lamb cobbler is the perfect dinner for a cold spring day. Leave the lamb and root vegetables cooking slowly in the oven until you are ready to eat.
Eating food when it is in season is the best way to get tasty flavoursome dishes at a reasonable price. During the winter and early spring many vegetables are unable to cope with the frost and wet. A few hardy cold weather vegetables are able to survive whatever the weather throws at them. They also add taste and flavour to winter dishes. One of the stars of the season is the flavoursome leek. It is a tough but tender plant that grows happily from Autumn into the Spring.
For many years leeks have been grown on allotments in North East England. The mining heritage of the area led to many pitmen owning an allotment. It gave them a chance to get outside in the fresh air whilst growing their own vegetables to eat. In the Autumn pubs and clubs would hold leek growing contests. Rivalry was fierce and people went to great lengths in the quest to gain the ribbon for the best leek in show. Secret fertiliser recipes were close family secrets. As the show day got closer men would sleep in their allotments overnight to protect the leeks. Sadly the tradition of leek shows is dying out now but many regional recipes use leeks. Leek pudding is one example, a filling dish where leeks make a statement.
Leek and lamb cobbler
Recently British leeks asked me if I would like to try and recreate one of their leek recipes. I was happy to give it a go. They have a great variety of leek dishes, something for every possible occasion. Given the recent cold snap we have been having I thought I would try making the leek and lamb cobbler. It was a great choice. Not only does it cook slowly in the oven allowing you to do other things, it is really warming and tasty. On a day when it had been repeatedly trying to snow it really did warm us up. The meal is lovely and filing as well, it only needs a few green vegetables by the side.
A cobbler is a variation on a pie that was born in the early days in the United States. On the pioneer trail and whilst taking cattle on long drives the chuckwagons produced the meal. During these long trips, the cooks often had to improvise, using whatever ingredients they had to hand. Instead of pastry, the pie topping was made from a scone like mix. This topping often resembled the cobbled streets of the early wild west towns, hence the name. Whilst most cobblers use fruit, this savoury version is a real treat. The combination of leeks, lamb and vegetables in a gravy with a herby scone topping will fill hungry tummies.
Seven things you didn’t know about leeks
- Leeks have been around since the time of the early Egyptians and were probably eaten by the people who built the pyramids
- The leek first came to Wales with Phoenician traders when they were trading for tin in the British Isles, now it is found all over the UK.
- In 640AD the Briton King Cadwallader were battling the invading Saxons. To distinguish themselves from their enemy the Welsh wore leeks in their hats. The victory was theirs.
- The Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all valued leeks for their therapeutic properties. The Roman Emperor Nero had the nickname Prorphagus (leek eater). He ate lots of leeks as he thought they would improve his singing voice.
- Leeks are found in traditional medicines today. They have lots of health benefits from soothing sore throats to keeping gout and kidney stones at bay.
- Eating leeks can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating a lot of leeks reduces bad cholesterol and helps prevent the build up of blood vessel plaques that may cause heart attacks or a stroke.
- Recipes from all over the world use leeks. From the Scottish cock-a-leekie soup to Vichyssoise soup created by a French chef in the Ritz in New York leeks make the dish.
Leek and lamb cobbler recipe
- 450 g 1lb stewing lamb eg shoulder
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- 2 tsbp vegetable or sunflower oil
- 150 ml ¼ pint brown ale
- 4 medium leeks
- 1 stick celery
- 3 carrots
- 400 g 14oz swede or turnip
- a few sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 500 ml 18 fl.oz lamb or beef stock
- For the cobbler topping
- 250 g 9oz self raising flour
- 80 g 3oz butter
- 125 ml 4 fl oz milk
- 2 tsp whole grained mustard
- 1 egg beaten
- Preheat the oven to 160C, 140C Fan, Gas Mark 3
- Season the flour with salt and pepper.
- Cut the lamb into cubes and toss in the seasoned flour.
- Heat the oil in a casserole dish.
- Add the lamb and fry for ten minutes until dark golden brown all over.
- Transfer the lamb to a bowl.
- Add the ale into the casserole dish and bring to a boil, making sure you scape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the casserole.
- Tip the ale over the lamb and wipe the dish with kitchen paper.
- Peel and chop the vegetables into chunks
- Add another tbsp oil to the dish
- Add the vegetables and gently fry them with thyme and bay leaves for 10 -15 minutes until they are going golden.
- Add the lamb and juice back into the dish, top up with stock and season.
- Cover the casserole with a lid and cook in the oven for 2½ hours
- When there are forty minutes to go make the cobbler topping.
- Add ½ tsp salt to the flour in a bowl
- Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Combine the milk, mustard, thyme and half of the egg and mix into the flour.
- Mix until you get a soft dough.
- Knead the dough and roll out on a floured surface.
- Use a biscuit cutter to make circles, knead together any left over dough and roll out and cut again until all the dough is used.
- Uncover the meat the stir gently and season.
- Place the cobbler pieces on top of the meat, brush with egg and return to the oven.
- Remove from oven when the cobbler is golden and the lamb tender, around half an hour.
Serve with seasonal greens
Do you have any favourite leek recipes? Let me know below.
I was sent the ingredients to make the meal at home but my opinions are my own.