When I was growing up we didn’t go to the movies very often. Going to ‘the pictures’ was a real treat. You dressed up for this very special occasion and arrived at the theatre in plenty of time to purchase your tickets that were for allocated seating only. A very polite usher in a smart uniform wielding a torch led you to your seat. The theatre was always two stories with a gently sloping section down below and a balcony section above. The floors inside the threatre were wooden so naughty people sitting at the end of the rows would roll their jaffas down the aisle and no one seemed to tire of this prank.
And the picture palace (as many of them were called), weren’t in a complex. There was just one theatre, not a dozen, and one movie screening only. That movie would be screened for about three weeks giving the whole town a chance to see it, then a new picture would replace it.
Before the picture started you didn’t have to suffer minutes of advertising. You would be shown a ‘short’ and this was a film of around 15 minutes in length that had probably been made by an aspiring film maker who had borrowed money from everyone he knew to purchase enough reels of film to make his debut as a director and cinematographer. You didn’t pay extra for these, they were a bonus and many of today’s great filmmakers had their first short films screened in this way.
Then the picture would begin and everyone would settle down to watch it and you’d hear the jaffas rolling along the wooden floors and then at some crucial moment in the picture the projectionist would stop the movie and it would be intermission. Everyone would head out of the theatre for a choc-top ice cream or more jaffas or a bag of chips. But if you didn’t want to leave your post ushers came in and walked through the theatre selling drinks and ice creams and chocolates and lollies.
I remember being taken to see such classics as The Poseidon Adventure that resulted in us all being terrified of being on a cruise ship at night on New Year’s Eve in an ocean with a 90-foot tidal wave.
I also went to see The Towering Inferno and that had us all terrified of being in poorly constructed high rise buildings on their opening night.
But there was one movie that came to our town that I really wanted to see but I wasn’t allowed as my parents said it was too scary for me and would give me nightmares. I protested much but they said I was too young to see it and the film was just too frightening. I was so furious when one Saturday I noticed my older sister wasn’t home only to discover she had been taken to see this movie because being 20 months older, she was mature enough to handle it and therefore wouldn’t suffer nightmares. So I never did get the chance to see Jaws but from what everyone told me I knew if you went for a swim in the ocean, particularly at night, a Great White would take your leg and you’d die of blood loss.
You couldn’t download movies off the internet and watch them on your laptop or your mobile phone. You couldn’t hire them from DVD stores or Video stores. You couldn’t even watch them on TV because many movies would take up to ten years to transit from the silver screen to the humble TV. So if you missed it, you missed it. But you could read the book and every family home had a copy of Jaws!
Here’s a meal that cooks itself while you’re out at the local Picture Palace.
Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Smashed Veg and Greens
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: This is a really lovely winter’s meal that is quite affordable because shoulders of lamb tend to be very reasonably priced
For the Lamb
• 500g lovely greens, such as white cabbage, Savoy cabbage, Brussels tops or cavolo nero, leaves separated, stalks finely sliced
• a large bunch of fresh rosemary
• 1 x 2kg shoulder of lamb
• olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 bulb of garlic, unpeeled, broken into cloves
For the smashed veg
• 750g peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
• 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
• ½ a large swede, peeled and cut into small chunks
• 75g butter
For the sauce
• 1 tablespoon flour
• 500ml good-quality hot vegetable or chicken stock
• 2 heaped tablespoons capers, soaked, drained and chopped
• a large bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Preheat your oven to full whack. Slash the fat side of the lamb all over with a sharp knife. Lay half the sprigs of rosemary and half the garlic cloves on the bottom of a high-sided roasting tray, rub the lamb all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place it in the tray on top of the rosemary and garlic, and put the rest of the rosemary and garlic on top of the lamb. Tightly cover the tray with tinfoil and place in the oven. Turn the oven down immediately to 170°C/325°F/gas 3 and cook for 4 hours – it’s done if you can pull the meat apart easily with two forks.
When the lamb is nearly cooked, put your potatoes, carrots and swede into a large pot of boiling salted water and boil hard for 20 minutes or so until you can slide a knife into the swede easily. Drain and allow to steam dry, then smash them up in the pan with most of the butter. If you prefer a smooth texture, add some cooking water. Spoon into a bowl, cover with tinfoil and keep warm over a pan of simmering water.
Remove the lamb from the oven and place it on a chopping board. Cover it with tinfoil, then a tea towel, and leave it to rest. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for your greens. Pour away most of the fat from the roasting tray, discarding any bits of rosemary stalk. Put the tray on the hob and mix in the flour. Add the stock, stirring and scraping all the sticky goodness off the bottom of the tray. You won’t need gallons of gravy, just a couple of flavoursome spoonfuls each. Add the capers, turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes.
Finely chop the mint and add it to the sauce with the red wine vinegar at the last minute then pour into a jug. Add your greens and stalks to the pan of fast-boiling salted water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes to just soften them. Drain and toss with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place everything in the middle of the table, and shred the lamb in front of your guests. Absolutely delish!
This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home cookbook.
Thanks Jamie for the best ever lamb shoulder recipe I have ever enjoyed.