Lamb Shank Pie and Floating Islands

  • Recipe(s): Lovely lamb shank pie (page 166) & Floating islands (page 398) & Baked and dressed zucchini (page 367)
  • Prep: Easy & Difficult & Easy
  • Taste: Good & Good & Good

I had been looking forward to making one of these recipes ever since I was given Jamie Oliver’s, ‘Cook with Jamie.’ Can you guess which one?

If you guessed the lamb shank pie you are the winner. The title alone, LAMB SHANK PIE, needs no other words to describe its awesomeness. To be honest, I did think the floating islands looked cool, but was a touch afraid to make them, as they looked extremely difficult to get right.

On July 20, 2014, we invited a few friends over for dinner and attempted both of these dishes, along with a super easy zucchini dish that was just that, a super easy zucchini dish. Both of them lived up to their hype. The pie looked amazing and the floating islands were very difficult to make.

The prep on the pie was moderate.   There was a decent amount of chopping required and I had to tip the ends of the shanks, so that the meat would cook down the bone, leaving a nice clean top to stick out of the pie.  It is a very time consuming process.   Once you get everything ready, the rest of the dish is similar to making a stew/braised lamb shank.   You essentially put everything in the pot, along with a bottle of red wine (you could probably use half a bottle, but what is the fun in that) and let it cook on the stove top for a few hours.   After this, you place everything into a different pot (I used a Le Crueset), cover it with puff pastry and put it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes or so.

The prep on the zucchini was super, super easy.   You really have to do nothing to the zucchini itself, aside from scrubbing it clean.   There is minimal other prep required, just covering the zucchini with some red wine vinegar, olive oil, parsley and mint.  This made it an easy addition to the meal.  The taste was exactly what I had expected from the dish.   It was nice, the fresh parsley and mint worked well.

The prep for the floating island was difficult.   It is very time consuming (making custard and meringues) and frustrating (making spun sugar).   Unfortunately, the first batch of custard was accidentally made with the egg whites rather than the yolks, so a second batch was made, adding to the time spent on the dessert.   The spun sugar was a nightmare.   Neither of us had ever made it before and following the instructions in the book, or on You-Tube, didn’t help at all.  The first attempt at the spun sugar ended in disaster, so it took a second round to get something that was edible…  In the end we ended up with nice flavoured hard pieces of caramel but not spun sugar, in terms of looks anyways.

The lamb shank pie looked really cool – everyone commented on it.   Unfortunately the flavour didn’t quite live up to the hype provided by the look (and the expectations we had created in our own minds).   It wasn’t bad by any means, it was just missing a little something extra.   It lacked the punch that we were expecting.   I would probably add more rosemary to the recipe or perhaps I would cook the liquid down further to try and enhance the flavour.   All in all it was good, just not the exceptional dish we had anticipated. But boy, did it look good!

The floating islands also had an amazing presentation in the book, and got their fare share of compliments.   They actually tasted really good.   I was hesitant at first but the meringue, combined with the cool custard and the burnt flavour of the spun sugar made for a delightful dessert.   I actually wished that we didn’t halve the custard recipe so that we could have had more!

Both dishes lived up to their billing.  The pie looked amazing and the islands were bloody difficult.   While the pie let us down a little bit on flavour, the islands made up for it in their unexpected tastiness.   We probably would not make either dish again as they are both super time consuming.   If anything, I would probably make the islands again and practice making the spun sugar until I got it right.   This is one recipe that would really wow your guests if you could get that part of it just right!

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