From my scholarly reading I have learned that in order to get away with murder you have to get rid of either the body or the weapon…and keep a straight face. Although this is a bit of an assumption because in murder mysteries they never get away with it. To get back to the lesson — since all worthwhile reading should leave the reader intellectually satisfied – you must permanently…so that it will never, ever be found…get rid of either the body or the weapon. Burning and cutting up the body into little bits and pieces is a popular method, but very messy. It’s riskier, but Roald Dahl found it much simpler to use a nice leg of lamb. Lesson over.
Ever since I decided to start Meals to Die By I knew that Lamb to the Slaughter would make it in, even if it meant having to cook lamb for the first time ever. I first read this in school — elementary school, I think, and it was handed out by the teacher. Is a wife killing her husband and feeding the weapon to the police school appropriate? Hmm, I know I was reading scary murder mysteries that kept me awake and terrified to get out of bed, but was everyone? Did the teacher see Dahl and think “oh, good, here’s a children’s story”? Maybe it was middle and not elementary school.
This is my absolute favorite Dahl story, though admittedly I’m not a connoisseur. That last line when the policemen are eating the last bites and Mary slowly begins to laugh. Thrillingly chilling.
As a cliffhanger the reader is forced to wonder, “Did she get away with it?” Did the police decide that she was in shock? Or, did it crossover to the detective genre with an impossibly clever sleuth sending her to the gallows? Dahl’s mysteries did seem to wish for justice though whether that was for the domineering husband or the vengeful wife is vague.
If many authors use food to describe a character, then Dahl makes food into a character. I like to picture Dahl sitting down in his easy chair, pulling out a pencil, tapping the end against his temple…think, think, think. A few words, a sentence are written crossed out, erased. Distracted he begins to nibble the dry rubber eraser then switches it out for the square of dark chocolate always kept by his side. Goodness, he even wrote cookbooks.
Because of this I will forgive him for putting an apparently unseasoned and completely frozen leg of lamb into the oven and calling it good. Mary Maloney probably would have undertaken a traditional Irish preparation. I went rogue. Also, her post-head bashing shopping trip called for potatoes, canned peas and cheesecake which were not eaten. During my shopping trip there wasn’t a leg of lamb available so I couldn’t do any head bashing, pre- or post-, and opted for kebobing a shoulder chop instead, the couscous called out louder than the potatoes, the cheesecake was mute and finally I found fresh peas. If you can find them and are willing to splurge fresh peas are wonderful and terribly fun to pop open the pods and see all the little peas in a row clinging to their shell.
If you prepare ahead, I’d recommend marinating the lamb. Also, this could be deliciously made with potatoes or mushrooms instead of lamb and roasted or grilled instead of broiled.
Lamb with couscous, fresh peas and mint pesto
1 bunch mint
2 cloves garlic
1 handful walnuts
Lamb chops, cut into squares
Quarter onion, cut into wedges
2/3 cup couscous
1 cup water
fresh peas, shelled
salt and pepper
Using a food processor chop up mint, garlic and walnuts. When well chopped and leaving the blades whirring, start drizzling in olive oil. Add enough to make it a pesto consistency.
Thread alternating chunks of lamb and onion onto skewer. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Rub all over for some of the mint pesto. Place under broiler until done. Really, this was fast, but I’ve no idea how long it took, but once the cooking smells had traveled to the back of the house I knew it was done. Beware this technique if you have a large house. Turn once during cooking and check periodically.
For couscous and peas:
Boil water in small pot. Add in sprinkling of salt and all of couscous, give pot a little swish to distribute. Remove from heat, cover and let sit. After a moment, add fresh (or frozen) peas on top. Recover and let sit.
Serve, topping with additional pesto.