I don't like lamb. No, I lie. I actually do like lamb, when it's well done (as in: the chef knows what he's doing, not as in: over-cooked and chewy), using top-quality lamb, preferrably in spring, and best of all when it's very young - still breast-feeding, as it were. I know of suckling pig - is there such thing as a suckling lamb? Probably, though I've never seen it on menus here. It is quite common back home around Easter - the most tasty, tender meat imaginable, and if you, like me, feel your stomach doing a 360 whenever you pass a kebab shop or certain butchers, you should still pluck up the courage to try this type of meat... it plays in a very different league and is so much better, void of that muttony taste I so loathe.
Although my better half loves lamb, I never used to cook much of it, despite his pleas, mostly because I didn't have the experience and didn't trust myself to know what to buy or how to prepare it, risking my husband filing for divorce as a result of a ruined dinner.
But after attending the recording of the f-word last month, where we were served a rack of lamb and utterly disappointed with it, too, I decided to try one for myself. Already, I had discovered that rack of lamb seems to have a much subtler taste than the leg (which I used in an earlier, failed, attempt to cook lamb), and I was convinced that, if I could get good quality meat, mine would be much tastier than what Gordon and his 6 dwarves had produced in that ominous TV show.
And indeed it was. I bought my rack at Waitrose, seasoned it generously, leaving it to marinade in some oil and freshly crushed garlic for a good hour before roasting it ... delicious. I dished it up with butter beans, inspired by what Salt Yard serve their roast pork belly with - cooked with rosemary and a bacon rind, they sported the most divine, rustic taste. Definitely something I'll try again - and if he's ever thought about a divorce, it's certainly on the back-burner after this dinner, if he's not ditched the idea altogether ;-)
Roast rack of lamb with rosemary-scented butter beans
(serves 2 with a healthy appetite)
1 rack of lamb (mine had 7 cutlets/ribs)
2 small cloves garlic
2 sprigs thyme
sea salt, pepper
For the beans:
2 cans butter beans (400 g drained weight)
50 g bacon rind
2 sprigs rosemary
10 cloves garlic
Marinate the lamb at least 1 hour before cooking.
Brush the meat with a little oil, rub with sea salt. Cut 1 clove of garlic into thin sticks (ca. 2 mm thick) and stud the meat with them. Rub the rack with the remaining garlic clove (crushed) and 2 sprigs of thyme. Wrap in clingfilm (incl. the thyme) and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, overnight if you can.
Meanwhile, prepare the butter beans by draining them, then cooking in salt water with the bacon rind and rosemary until tender. Turn off the heat and leave to stand.
Pre-heat oven to 250 C. Fry the rack of lamb in a pan until sealed. Transfer to the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Put the garlic cloves in an oven-proof dish without peeling them and roast for 15 minutes. Drain the beans, remove the bacon and herbs, then return to the pot. Add the peeled roast garlic and stir through.
When the meat is done, remove from the oven and leave to rest of 10 minutes. Cut into portions and arrange them on a pile of beans to serve.