Why is lamb associated with Easter? Obviously Easter is about the time of year that we start to see lambs springing around the lush, bright fields but why does that equate to lamb on the plate? I don't really have any answers I'm afraid but what I do know is that a local farm shop had some lamb in and I couldn’t resist. Lamb is ready for eating when it is 4 months old, about the time it is weaned from its mother. Simple maths therefore, would make you wonder why lamb was in the shop in April. This involved a small amount of detective work... It was from the Scottish borders where it can be fairly chilly so it was probably born in late April, May last year. This makes it just under a year old. Hogget minus a few months. As the meat was a little older than the majority of lamb you might buy I splashed out for a rack, possibly the most tender cut. Lamb is one of those meats where you sacrifice tenderness for taste and taste for tenderness; a fine tuned balance. It was fed on grass with lots of herb so it was a pretty special dinner.
Early season lamb is bred in southern England through artificially "horneying up" the sheep in the autumn time for the lambs to be born in December, January time. These lambs will then be kept inside till late February when it is warm enough for them in get out in the open. These lambs will get fed hay and soy to fatten them up quickly for the Easter market in the supermarkets. This surely has got to be an inferior product compared to its more natural cousin.
I got the inspiration for this recipe from Tom Kitchin who did a version of this on Saturday kitchen. He cooked it with smoking hay which sounds interesting but having splashed out for such an expensive cut I wanted to keep it quite honest and let the flavour of the herb fed lamb shine. You can get this recipe from the BBC food website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/lamb_cooked_on_hay_64832.
When I first met my boyfriend I spent the first few years trying to whoo him with food. Having now settled into domestic cohabiting bliss(ish) this is now a less regular occurrence. I wanted to give the boy a wee treat. He deserves it.
Roast rack of lamb serves a greedy 2
Oven set to 180 degrees
french trimmed rack of lamb 0.6kg or 1.5lb; this is quite an average size
700g waxy new potatoes, finely sliced
2 onions finely sliced
1 fennel bulb finely sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500ml chicken stock
couple of bay leaves
few springs of thyme
few knobs of butter
Cook the onions, fennel off in a heavy bottomed pan till nice and brown. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Add in the herbs and season.
Add in the garlic and cook till softened.
Arrange layers of potato then a layer of onions minus the herbs, I think I did 3 layers.
Season each layer with salt and pepper.
Add a few knobs of butter on top and pour the stock over.
Cook in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes.
You may need to cover it with a bit of tinfoil if it is getting a bit burnt.
For the lamb, rub with olive oil, season and seal in a heavy bottomed pan.
Pop in the oven for 14-18 minutes.
The best way to get perfectly cooked lamb is to invest in a meat thermometer; we served ours rare, very rare, almost baahing.
120-125degrees for rare
125-130 degrees for medium rare
Let in rest for 8-10 minutes with some tinfoil and tea towels to keep warm. I like using my cast iron shallow casserole pan as it keeps the heat in with the lid.
Carve and enjoy.