Tag Archives: Lamb

When Life Hands You a Lamb Rack

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

Pretty as a Mind’s Eye Picture

The other day the Big Guy was sent out for some chops to go with second helpings of the Jansson’s Frestelse. Instead, he came home with a beautiful French-trimmed rack of lamb. Of course, it was far too good to for the more rustic plans I had had for the chops.

I knew it would get a lovely herb crust, and be cooked medium rare, so that it was still juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. When I am thinking about a dish, I can often clearly visualise the food,  including exact colours and shades.  I get the best results when I have a really clear picture, and if I can get the dish to look as close to the mental picture as I can. I mentioned this to a friend once, and she seemed pretty surprised that my planning was so visual. I’m not sure if that is because it struck her as an odd method, or if it is because I am so linear in how I work in many other aspects of my life. For me it is natural, and obvious, since you eat with your eyes first. How do you develop a dish, or conceptualise it?

In my head, the crust of this dish was slightly darker than with breadcrumbs alone. I wanted something suitably autumnal, to go with the potatoes. I had initially thought to have chilli and coriander, but this differed significantly from my mental picture.

Then I realised that the colour was cumin. This brown, unassuming little seed would be fantastic in my crust, and it would be the right colour. So I settled upon cumin, rosemary and thyme for the autumnal flavour, and parsley for the greenness.

All good meat needs browning, because it loses so much flavour without the Maillard reaction to kick start the process, and add essential umami. Luckily, this also creates the perfect conditions to make a delicious gravy, or a sauce.

My vision was not of thick, plentiful gravy; instead, I made a fairly thin red wine sauce. I guess if it were served in a restaurant, they might call this a Jus. But it was just the Big Guy and me for dinner, so we didn’t need that level of formality.

I made a little too much of the crust, but that was fine, since you can sprinkle it on other dishes, and freezes well. I’m thinking I might top a stew with it, when next I make one. What do you think I should do with it?

Recipe: Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with a Red Wine Sauce

Ingredients

For the Lamb:

1 tsp cumin seeds

40 g fresh breadcrumbs

3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves only

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, roughly chopped

Small bunch parsley, roughly chopped

Oil to moisten

1 French-trimmed rack of lamb allowing three cutlets per person

A little oil for frying

Dijon or French mustard for brushing

For the Sauce:

Trimmings from the lamb rack

Trimmings from an onion and a carrot if you keep a stock drawer or half of each, sliced

Splash of red wine

1 tbsp elderberry or redcurrant jelly

100 ml of stock per person

Method

Heat the oven to 220°C.

Toast the cumin in a dry frying pan until the scent fills the air above the cooker. Be careful not to burn it. Grind it to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar.

Make the crust. I used the end of an old piece of bread, and made fresh breadcrumbs by blitzing them in my food processor, until they were fine. I also often have breadcrumbs made this way in the freezer, because I won’t chuck something out if I can use it as an ingredient.

Once you have fine breadcrumbs, add the herbs and cumin and give it another quick blitz to blend it. Slowly add olive oil until the mixture comes together as a thick paste.

The lamb is likely to have a little fat and a sinew along one side. You can trim the fat, but leave a little around the bone, for flavour. The sinew must be removed, as this is tough. Don’t throw it away, It will help you make a tasty sauce later.

Put foil over the bones of the rack to prevent them from burning in the oven. Brown the meat in a hot frying pan with a little butter, to get the Maillard’s reactions going.

Once the lamb is browned on all sides, brush it with the mustard, giving an even coating. Put the breadcrumb crust in a shallow dish, and press the lamb into the breadcrumbs on all sides. Pat some breadcrumbs in, to ensure an even coating.

Put the meat into the hot oven for about 10 minutes if you want medium, turning once so that the crust browns on both sides. If you prefer your meat well done, then cook for up to 14 minutes, depending on the size. Once it is done to your liking, remove the meat from the oven, cover it in foil, and allow to rest for five minutes.

Make the sauce while the lamb is in the oven. In the same pan that you browned the meat in, brown the sinew and trimmings, with the onion and carrots. Don’t add any more oil to the pan. Once the vegetables have browned, but not burnt, deglaze the pan with the red wine. You really don’t need more than a splash. I do the Nigella trick of freezing any wine left in a bottle as ice cubes, and only used one, whereas I often use 3-4. Cook the wine out for a couple of minutes, then add the stock. Cook the sauce on a fairly high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the jelly, and cook until the jelly has dissolved.

Strain the sauce through a sieve. Remove the foil from the bones of the rack. Slice the rested meat into cutlets and serve with the sauce.

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Spring Lamb Soup

Spring Lamb Soup

Lovely, Lovely Leftovers!

So yesterday I promised you a great recipe for the leftovers from my Bulgarian-ish  lamb. I’m not going to disappoint you, and neither will this soup. Once you have already made the lamb, it really is very minimal effort to make.

This sort of thing is really the best way to use up leftovers – minimal effort, but just different enough that it is not just a repeat of the meal from the day before. Oh, and delicious, of course!

You will use up the vegetable sauce, and the meat, and add bits of your own. If you don’t like chicory, then you can use baby gem lettuce in the same way instead. I might be nice to add a thinly sliced spring onion with the peas, or instead of the peas. If you don’t have parsley, you can try mint. that’s the other great thing about dishes like this, they really are completely adjustable to what you like and what you have in the cupboard.

Recipe: Spring Lamb Soup

Ingredients

150 g Puy lentils

4 heads chicory, the forced kind

A little oil for frying

200 g broad beans (podded weight)

1 l vegetable sauce leftover from Bulgarian-ish Lamb

200 g cooked lamb

100 g peas, shelled or frozen

2-3 drops Worcestershire Sauce

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Method

Cook the puy lentils in plenty of water, until they are almost done. Don’t salt the water, it makes their skins tough. Drain when they have reached this stage.

Meanwhile, halve the chicory, or cut it into quarters if it is large, but it is really better to get smaller ones. Heat the oil in a frying pan. When the oil has warmed, add the chicory, flat side down at first, and cook for a minute or two until the leaves start to colour, then flip them over to colour on the other side. Remove from the heat when they are coloured on both sides.

Cook the broad beans in boiling, unsalted water for three minutes, then drain them and double pod them. I think the reason that people think that they don’t like broad beans is because no-one has taken the trouble to double pod them. It isn’t all that much effort, and the results really are worth it. Unless you have the tiny baby beans, in which case they are fine just as they are.

Heat up the vegetable sauce, add the lentils, lamb and the chicory, and cook for five minutes. Add the beans and the peas and cook for a further minute. Season with a little Worcestershire sauce. Stir through the chopped parsley, and serve with crusty bread.

The whole meal takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, and what could be better, tastier, or easier than that?

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Bulgarian(ish) Lamb

Bulgarianish Lamb

Lovely Lamb to End Lent

Lamb is traditional for Easter dinner in many cultures.

My American friend was already bringing a ham, that she baked according to a cherished recipe from her grandmother, to our international feast. It was delicious, and really well cooked, in a delicious sauce, some of which is sitting in my fridge, waiting for me to come up with a way to use it.

A baked ham for Easter is traditional in both the US and in Sweden.

However, I have a tendency to continue to invite people to dinners, and I would be horrified if people were to go away hungry (often resulting in us eating a lot of leftovers, but that is really no trouble). True to form, I had invited more people than I had told my friend about, and I wanted to make sure that we all had enough to eat. So I fell back on some more traditions and made a lamb dish.

A few years ago, the Big Guy and I had the pleasure of a trip to Plovdiv in Bulgaria. A friend of a friend had recommended the Puldin restaurant, and we had eaten an excellent meal there. My memory was that it was also pretty reasonably priced, despite what the Lonely Planet says, but I can’t really say for sure anymore. Either way, if you go to the beautiful, historic town of Plovdiv, I recommend this restaurant. The settings are gorgeous, and the series of rooms are both sumptuous and adorned with lovely art, frescoes and even a Roman wall in the room where we ate.

For some reason, my memory of this meal was stirred by trying to think of a different way to serve lamb, so that it would not overpower the ham. My memory is that I had a lamb dish that may (or may not) have been called St George’s Lamb. I may not remember the exact name, but I certainly remember the dish. The meat was meltingly tender, and came cooked with carrots and peas. Interestingly, it had been cooked in white wine, which really cut through the fatty richness of the meat. The vegetables had been added near the end of cooking, so they still retained a nice crunch. It was a truly remarkable dish.

Unfortunately, the Puldin does not seem to have a website (or at least not using our alphabet – they use the cyrillic alphabet in Bulgaria), so I have been unable to check if they still carry the dish to see if I got the name right , or go from a description on a menu. But that memory of a dish was the perfect thing to go on a plate that will star a baked ham, for a hungry person, so I decided to have a go at an approximation anyway.

There are a few Bulgarian lamb dishes on the web, but none really seemed to resemble the dish I had eaten in Puldin. I was pretty much on my own, so I decided to dive in and do my best in any case. I did find these two recipes, which I used as inspiration.

This is what I came up with

Recipe: Bulgarianish Lamb

Ingredients

1.5 kg leg of lamb, bone in – I found some lovely organic Texel lamb,

For the Marinade:

1 l water

400 ml white wine. I used an Auxerrois from Limburg, so it was local, and fruity enough to balance the lamb.

½ unwaxed lemon, sliced

50 ml tarragon or white wine vinegar

3 dried or 5 fresh bay leaves

2 tsp dried oregano

Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

Salt

4 tbsp oil

4-5 cloves garlic

3 carrots

150 g cherry tomatoes

3 medium potatoes

4 sticks celery

1 small onion

1 tbsp tomato puree

Little cold water to make a thin paste

1 tbsp plain flour

Method

Pour the marinade ingredients over the lamb, and allow to marinate overnight. If the lamb is large, turn the meat regularly in the marinade.

Dry the lamb on kitchen paper, keeping the marinade aside for later.

Cook the whole garlic cloves in the oil. Remove them when they start to colour, and set aside. Be really careful not to allow the garlic to burn, you want a nice brown colour, but no black. Burnt garlic is bitter, and you do not want it in the sauce.

Salt the meat and brown the meat well on all sides. Be careful, it will spit, even if you have dried it well.

Soften the vegetables in the same oil, including the garlic used earlier. Meanwhile, remove the peel from the slices of lemon from the marinade, and make a thinner paste with the tomato puree and cold water.

Add the flour, and the tomato paste to the vegetables, and cook through for a couple of minutes. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, or the sauce will taste of raw flour. Add the lemon pulp to the pan, you can leave it on top of the vegetables, no need to stir it in.

Return the leg of lamb onto the top of the vegetables, and pour over the retained marinade. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that forms. Simmer on a low heat for up to three hours. You want the meat to be really tender and falling off the bone, but not overcooked, which will dry it out, despite being cooked in liquid.

Once it is done, allow the meat to rest in a warm place.

Pass the vegetables and the cooking liquid through a food mill (or you can blend them) to make the sauce. Remove the bay leaves before you pass them through the food mill, you don’t want to grind them, it will render your sauce inedible.

There will be quite a lot of sauce. Put it back on the hob in a clean pan, and reduce it by about a third. Taste at this point, and season with salt, pepper and some lemon juice, if required. The sauce should have a bit of a citrus kick to cut through the richness of the lamb.

Serve slices of the lamb, along with whatever veg you like, and allow your guests to pour the sauce over, as they choose.

You will have quite a lot of sauce left, and the bone of course, as well as some of the meat. Make stock with the bone, to be used on future lamb dishes (it is particularly distinctive, so may not be suitable for multiple meats, as is chicken and beef stock.

Don’t throw out the rest of the leftovers, I have a great recipe that will help you use them all up (of course!).

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