Recently, I heard on the Blogvine about an interesting challenge going on over at Murdoch Books. They have a team working their way through Stephane Reynaud's '365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat' Cookbook. This sounded like a fun idea, so I stuck my hand up and volunteered for a few of the recipes.
In a nutshell, you pick a few dishes you'd like to try, cook them on or before the day they are listed in the book, and send them in to the co coordinator who'll put up your post and pics a couple of days later. It's nice to think outside your square sometimes, and cook someone else's style, but luckily this first recipe I was given isn't too much of a stretch at all.
This is the link to the challenge for any of you who might want to check out how it's going.
What with working all week, fighting the flu, and a perpetually hungry family, when it came to cooking a recipe for this challenge I have to admit that I was glad I had one that was family dinner friendly as this killed two birds with one stone and gave me a bit of breathing space. I loved the sound of this one as lamb is our favourite meat and the veggies were a nice change from the usual potatoes and peas that my hubby craves.
So today, for your dining pleasure, we have Stephane Reynaud's Rack of Lamb with Pesto and Turnips.
3 Bunches baby Turnips
50 gr butter or dairy free spread
1 Tab sugar
Lamb rack with 8 Cutlets
Bunch of Rocket
80 gr Parmesan Cheese
Juice of a lemon
2 Garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper
Search as I might, there were just no turnips available anywhere this week. Decisions, decisions, what to do... I decided to go with some other yummy root vegetable to keep within the spirit of the recipe, cue the mystery spheres. Can you guess what they are? Swedes , of course. Swedes are not known for their subtlety, as they range in size from large to huge, and the original recipe called for baby turnips, so I cannily employed a melon baller to break them down into manageable mouthfuls. The green gems are baby Brussel Sprouts, just for a bit of veggie bling.
First I want to prep the vegetables. The Swedes are tough little suckers that will require a bit more time than called for in the original recipe, so I want those on first. All I did was peel the swede, then use a melon baller in the usual manner to create the spheres. The Brussels – I just realised we sound quite European with Swedes and Brussels, don’t we- are even easier to prepare, just pull off the top layer of leaves, trim the stem, and cut a small cross in the base of each stalk. Easy-peasy.
Place them in a pan, cover with water and add the butter and sugar. Cover with a bit of baking paper and cook on low heat until they’re cooked through.
Now, to the lamb. I got this lovely rack from my favourite butcher, and he nicely scored the outside and Frenched them for me- A third nation! This just means that the ends of the bones on the cutlets are exposed and cleaned off for presentation. Actually, this is one of the best parts, as the thin bits of meat go nice and crispy which I love, but they also burn really fast which will spoil the look the of the dish, hence the clean up. In the actual recipe, the racks are just popped into the oven for a bit, but as we know, there are racks, and there are Racks. This particular Rack is definitely a Double D. As with all racks of this size, it needs a bit of support to be at its’ best. To give mine a lift, I’m going to sear it well in a hot pan first to get a good bit of colour going and start the cooking process. A great kitchen investment is a frying pan that can be put in the oven, this way you can keep all the lovely juices and caramelised bits that stick in the pan to use in your gravies, and also to save washing up another pan at the end of the night, what’s not to love about that?
So, sear the lamb on fairly high heat until it has a nice colour, then put into the preheated 180* oven for about 15mins or cooked to your preference- my family likes it fairly cooked through, pull out, and cover with a piece of foil while it rests. This is really important, the resting process allows the meat proteins to relax and the juices redistribute evenly resulting in a much more tender piece of meat.
While the meat is resting, make the pesto. This is all done in the food processor, blender, or with a stick blender in a few seconds flat. Pop all the ingredients into the machine of choice, and blitz away until you have a nice smooth puree. If it’s a bit thick, add a splash of olive oil to thin it out. Don’t make this too far ahead of time, as the gorgeous green will start to lose some of its vibrancy as it oxidises. The lemon juice will help, but better just do it last thing to be on the safe side.
Time to plate up, people. Put a nice spoonful of pesto on the plate and smear it bravely across the width, now stand back and admire the contrast of colour and congratulate yourself on your daring. Carve between the bones of the rack to get nice even cutlets, and place them on the plate. Try and get a bit of height, it will look more ‘restauranty’. Grab the pot of veggies and give them a good shake around to glaze the veggies with the buttery residue in the bottom. This will make them nice and shiny- oh and they’ll taste good too. Place these artistically near the meat and add a dot or three more pesto for that final fling of restaurant bling.
I’m sure your guests will love this meal. It tastes great and is really pretty too. There aren’t really many steps, and each happily falls into place after the other without having to rush. By the time the veggies are done, the meat is ready to go and the pesto is waiting. You get more time to spend with your guests and only need about 30 minutes to create a masterpiece.
Style and substance all at once, fantastic!
So Readers, what do you think of this challenge?