Like a dog with a bone, refusing to let go, I've been wrestling with the whole crumpetgate saga for a couple of weeks now. Ever since that night, my life has been a montage of long walks in the park, contemplative pints supped alone, cigarettes lit but unsmoked with ash snaking down to the butt and spent hours in grey light, wallowing under crumpled sheets.
"Epigrams. Who the hell has ever heard of epigrams?" That's all I've been muttering under my breath.
Of course, it never was epigrams, I got the spelling wrong, which grates even more. It was actually épigrammes, dug out from Elizabeth David by some young, snotty nosed, Oxbridge educated researcher no doubt. Tosser.
So yes, readers, the whole episode has hit me hard.
But thankfully, I am now over it, for this weekend I got off my backside and set to make what I know as 'scrumpets', a word gleened from Mark Hix's Oyster and Chop House cookbook. A word trapped in the inner recesses of my mind, a word that was the source of confusion all along.
In terms of simplicity, this dish really couldn't be easier. Take some breast of lamb, season and slow cook with herbs and garlic and then leave to cool. Then cut into strips, batter with breadcrumb and deep fry. The result is ridiculously toothsome, with a lovely outer crunch that yields to soft, tender meat inside. Mark Hix suggests an accompanying dip of wild garlic mayonnaise to serve with the scrumpets (he also suggests using breast of mutton too) but I think that would be a step too far. What these lamb goujons need is something acidic to cut through their inherent fatty richness, so I would serve them up with a green sauce or salsa verde. And this will be the gameplan as scrumpets are on the menu for my next supper club.
Going back to the word itself, I have to say that I would take 'scrumpets' over 'épigrammes' any day of the week. There is something bawdy, riotous and devilish about 'scrumpets', whereas 'épigrammes' seems poncy and sniffy by contrast. Not that I have anything against Fronch cooking and Elizabeth David, no not at all. It's just that scrumpets is definitely better. Definitely. And if Kirsty Wark had used it in the quiz, then I wouldn't have looked so stupid.
Hmm, I still haven't let go of that bone have I?
Lamb Scrumpets - serves 4
300-400g boneless breast of lamb
salt and roughly ground pepper
1 head of garlic, halved and roughly chopped
a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
2 free range eggs, beaten
60-70g fresh white breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for deep-frying
Preheat the oven to 160c/gas mark 3. Place the lamb into an ovenproof dish (with tight fitting lid). Season well and scatter over the chopped garlic and herbs. Cover and cook for 2 hours or until very tender, basting regularly and turning down if necessary. Leave to cool overnight.
Scrape away any fat residue from the lamb and any fat that hasn't rendered down during cooking. Cut the breast into 1 cm wide strips, 5-6 cms long.
Have 3 bowls ready, one with flour, one with eggs and one with the breadcrumbs. Season the flour. Heat a 6 cm depth of oil in a deep fat fryer or other suitable deep, heavy pan to 160-180c.
Pass the lamb strips through the seasoned flour, shaking off excess, then through the egg and finally coat in the breadcrumbs. Deep-fry the strips in batches for 2-3 minutes, moving them around in the oil until golden and crisp. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve with lemon wedges and (in my opinion) a healthy dollop of salsa verde .
'Erbs and Garlick