ROAST RACK OF LAMB WITH AUBERGINE PUREE, SWEET POTATOES AND SPINACH

5 fat cloves of garlic 2-3 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground

1 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, coarsely ground

1 teaspoon paprika olive oil finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Lamb is traditionally associated with spring and, indeed, new season lamb can be a real treat – best enjoyed, perhaps, as a rack of best end of neck cutlets cooked in a brief, fierce heat and served just pink. Yet most new season British lamb doesn’t get into its stride until later in the summer. But now is a good time to enjoy yearling lamb bom in Scotland or the north of England early last summer as it has a more succulent flavour than the newest of the new season meat.

There are all manner of good things to serve with lamb. The aroma of it cooking with garlic and rosemary is one of the most mouthwatering to come out of the kitchen. And the result tastes as good as it smells -a case of natural affinities. Aubergines, spinach, sweet peppers, asparagus and tomatoes are all good with lamb, as are grains and pulses, especially couscous, bulgur wheat, chick-peas and flageolets. Potatoes soak up lamb juices in the most decadently delicious way.

Or follow the spice trail: Middle Eastern combinations of cumin, coriander and cinnamon create tempting flavours. Add ginger, more garlic and chilli and you unlock the door to a whole range of Indian cookery. Add dried apricots or sour cherries and you’ve moved to Morocco or Persia. One of the best dishes it’s possible for meat-eaters to enjoy, though, must be skewered lamb, coated with spices, grilled and served pink with a bowl of cool, creamy yoghurt stirred through with herbs.

A few sprigs of fresh thyme salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 racks of lamb, fat scored

3 medium-sized aubergines

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (around 500 g/1 lb), peeled and cut into chunks 1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes 500 g (1 / lb) spinach, washed and trimmed 15 g (‘A oz) fresh coriander

Peel and crush one of the garlic cloves and mix with 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, all of the coriander and the paprika. Mix in 2 tablespoons oil,

1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the thyme and some black pepper. Spread over the lamb and set aside for at least 1 hour. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6 (200°C, 400°F). Prick the aubergines with a fork and roast for around 40 minutes, until soft and blackened. Wrap the remaining garlic in foil with 1 tablespoon oil and roast for 30-40 minutes. Leave the aubergines and garlic to cool, then peel them, pressing out as much liquid from the aubergines as you can. Puree the vegetables in a food processor or blender with Vi teaspoon cumin. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and whiz in 3 tablespoons olive oil in a steady stream. Add salt, pepper and more lemon juice and/or cumin to taste. Set aside to reheat later.

Raise the heat to Gas Mark 7 (220°C, 425°F).

Drizzle the lamb with 2 tablespoons oil, season with salt, then roast in the hot oven for 25 minutes. Allow to rest in a warm place, covered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat. Fry the sweet potatoes, stirring frequently, until they start to brown and soften. This should take around 6 minutes. Add the remaining cumin seeds and the chilli flakes, to taste. Cook for 1 minute. Turn up the heat, add the spinach and cover.

Cook for 3 minutes. Uncover, then stir the vegetables and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside a few of the coriander sprigs for the garnish, then chop the rest and stir into the aubergine puree. Serve the lamb on heated plates with the warm puree and the sweet potatoes and spinach, scattered with a few coriander sprigs. Serves 4.


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