A few weeks ago Jon and I went to Hungry In Brooklyn’s supper club, where we enjoyed lovely food, congenial company and a generally all round good time. And there was a dog called James. And there was lamb.
The lamb had been slow cooking for most of the day. And James had been smelling it for most of the day. So by the time it was revealed and ceremoniously plated, he was pretty interested in having a taste of it. Big brown up turned eyes, mournful face, the whole nine yards. And when our hosts caved and carved him a chunk he looked like the happiest creature on earth. Simple pleasures.
Lamb does that. And not only to serious-minded dogs.
When I was growing up, roast lamb was our traditional Easter dinner. Sometimes at my Aunty Jennifer’s, sometimes in Cornwall or in Jersey at the adorably-named Apple Cottage restaurant, but always lamb, roast potatoes and mint sauce.
Roasting a joint of lamb is no harder than roasting a chicken – you rub it with some seasonings, then put it in a hot oven, leave it alone, take it out of the oven, rest it, carve it and serve it. But in terms of the effort to impression ratio, you’re off the chart, a culinary god, bringing a feast to the table.
And so, though this is not date night cooking, (switch in rack of lamb and you’re talking …) it is passionately and positively life enhancing food, and it’s on my menu for Easter.
A proper roast dinner – lamb, roast potatoes, green beans and mint sauce (serves 6 – 8)
For the lamb1 leg of lamb (about 4lb – 1.5kg) 2 cups of red wine 1/2 cup of stock (I use chicken because that’s what I usually have around) and ½ cup more wine 1 tbsp or so cornstarch (corn flour) 2 onions 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (about 1 tbsp of leaves) 3 cloves of garlic 1 tbsp olive oil Salt and pepper
- Pre heat the oven to 375 f
- Peel and chop the onions into 6ths and arrange on the bottom of a roasting tray
- Poke about 20 holes about ½ cm deep in the lamb with a knife
- Chop the garlic and rosemary and mix with the olive oil. Rub this mixture over the lamb, poking bits down the holes. Season the meat well
- Put the lamb on top of the onions, pour the wine into the bottom of the tin, then cover the tin loosely with foil. Roast for 1 ½ hours. If the joint is heavier, say 4.1/2 lb, roast for 2 hours.
- Take the foil off and roast for a further 30 mins
- Take the lamb out of the oven, cover with foil and let it rest for 20 – 30 mins
- Pour the stock and wine into the roasting tray and scrape about to pick up all the brown bits on the bottom. Pour the liquid into a pan, reserving the onions. Mix the cornstarch to a paste with a tbsp or so of water, add to the pan and bring to a boil – the sauce should thicken.
- If you like, puree the onions with some of the sauce and add that back into the gravy – it gives amazing flavor – or simply add the onions back in for a more textured gravy
- Carve the lamb and serve with the hot gravy
Roast potatoes1 large potato per person and a couple of extras Vegetable oil Salt
- Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 inch ish chunks – pretty small for a roast potato, but you want them to cook in time with the lamb – if it’s easier to visualize, think about as long as your thumb
- Rinse, then put into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 10 – 15 mins until the potatoes are just tender. Keep an eye on them. If they over cook, change the plan. Have mash.
- Drain, then put the lid on the pan and shake the potatoes about so that the edges rough up
- Toss them in enough vegetable oil to coat and season well with salt
- Lay out on a roasting tray and put into the oven with the lamb for the last half hour of it’s cooking time
- Once the lamb comes out to rest, shake up the potatoes and turn them over, then crank up the oven to 450 and let the potatoes cook and really crisp up
- The lamb can sit and wait if the potatoes are a bit big and take longer to crisp. As long as the gravy’s hot, nobody will know the difference
Green BeansYou know your guests – I reckon on a fistful of beans per person (about 8 – 10) You could add 1/4 cup of frozen peas per person too if you thought people would enjoy them – I generally do because they’re Jon’s favorite
- Timing wise, pretty much as you take out the lamb, bring a pan of water to the boil, clamp a lid on it and keep warm
- A few minutes before you want to eat dinner crank up the heat so the water is boiling, salt, then add the beans. After a couple of minutes they should be dark green, cooked but not too much. Drain them and serve
Mint sauce can be made a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge if that helps with the timing of the meal4 tbsp chopped fresh mint 3 tbsp white wine vinegar 1 tsp sugar Salt and pepper
- Warm the vinegar in a pan until it’s just simmering. Take of the heat and add the sugar and the mint, mix well to combine. Serve cold.
- If you can find redcurrant jelly (easy in the UK, hard in the US), whisk in 2 tbsp to the warm vinegar until it melts and leave out the sugar
To turn this into a more expansive feast start with a fresh asparagus salad, then finish with chocolate easter egg nest cakes, fresh fruit and some cheese, or a rhubarb pavlova. These dishes can all be made in advance so your kitchen is all about the roast.