Wednesday 18 April 2012

Warm Lamb and Potato Salad with a Mint Dressing

The most important criterion for me when I’m cooking for a small crowd (and I’m talking about 10 people or more) is that every key element of the dish can be prepared many hours in advance, then heated, assembled and dished up with minimum fuss, at the last moment, so it arrives at the table fresh, hot and delicious. This is the fourth in a series of recipes for Woolworths, pantry sponsors of MasterChef South Africa.

An easy way to stretch an expensive leg of lamb between many mouths.
Obviously this is not possible for MasterChef contestants faced with the challenge of catering for a horde (given the tight time-frames of reality TV).  But for home cooks, painstaking planning and preparation are the secrets to success when you’re expecting a flock of hungry guests. A recipe that allows you partly to cook the ingredients well ahead of time, without any significant loss of freshness, flavour or texture, is the best bet, because all you need do is take 20 minutes or so to finish them off in pan or oven, fling the dish together and carry it triumphantly to the table.

This recipe for a warm salad of garlicky, rosemaried lamb, baby potatoes and peas allows you to do just that, and it’s economical in the sense that it stretches a single leg of lamb (which is ruinously expensive these days, for reasons I cannot understand) between many mouths. In the recipe below, I’ve given instructions for preparing the dish well ahead of time and then assembling it at the last minute.

You’ll save a lot of money if you buy a whole leg of lamb and debone it yourself (see Cook’s Notes, below), or ask your butcher to do it for you.

It’s important to serve this warm, as it’s the heat of the potatoes and lamb that releases the minty, mustardy, lemony flavours of the dressing.

My other recipes for Woolworths #wooliespantry: 

Curried Lamb Ribbetjies with Mint Yoghurt
Champ with Chives and Garlic
Gin-Cured Gravadlax with Crisped Capers

Warm Lamb and Potato Salad with a Mint Dressing

1 x 3.5 kg leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil, plus extra for frying
a large lemon
milled black pepper
3.5 kg new potatoes
olive or sunflower oil, for frying
4 cups frozen baby peas
baby mint leaves, to garnish

For the dressing:
4 tsp (20 ml) good Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
6 Tbsp (90 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp (2.5 ml) white sugar
flaky sea salt
milled pepper
1 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
a big handful of fresh mint leaves (about ¾ cup, loosely packed)

Lay the butterflied lamb, skin side down, in a large non-metallic dish. Scatter over the rosemary sprigs and garlic slices and drizzle with 3 Tbsp olive oil. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the lamb, then slice the squeezed-out lemon halves and arrange them on top of the lamb. Season well with milled black pepper (but no salt). Fold the lamb ‘butterfly’ in half to enclose the filling and cover the dish with clingfilm. Marinate in the fridge for 24 hours (a minimum of 12), turning the lamb over once or twice during that time.

Now prepare the potatoes. Cook them in plenty of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, but not squashy or falling apart. Drain in a colander for 10 minutes, return them to the empty pot and cover.

To prepare the dressing, put the mustard, garlic, lemon juice, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Whisk in the oil to form a smooth emulsion. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

Now sear the lamb (you can do this up to eight hours ahead and keep it, loosely covered with clingfilm, in the fridge). Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan or a heavy-based roasting pan until blazing hot and shimmering, but not yet smoking. Scrape the garlic, rosemary and lemon slices off the lamb (don’t leave a trace of garlic behind, as it will turn bitter in the pan) and season with a little salt on both sides.

Sear the lamb in the hot oil for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned and caramelised. Cover and set aside (at room temperature if you’re planning to assemble the dish within two hours, or in the fridge if you’re preparing this well in advance.)

About 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve the dish, heat the oven to 190 ºC. Put the lamb in a roasting pan and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until it’s cooked through, but still a pale rosy pink on the inside (how long this will take depends on your oven and the thickness of the lamb; see Cook’s Notes.) Cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, finely chop the mint leaves, stir them into the dressing and check the seasoning. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pot containing the potatoes, set it over a low heat and gently reheat for 7-10 minutes. Put the frozen peas into a pot of rapidly boiling salted water and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Cut the hot potatoes in half and arrange them on a large, warmed platter. Drain the peas and scatter them on top. Pour the pan juices that have accumulated under the lamb into the bowl containing the dressing and whisk well.

Cut the lamb into thin slices and arrange the pieces on top of the potatoes. Pour over just enough of the minty dressing to coat the potatoes and lamb, and garnish with small mint leaves. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Serve immediately with a leafy green salad scattered with crunchy croutons.

With salad, serves  8-10.

Cook's Notes:
  • It’s not difficult to debone a leg of lamb: use a very sharp knife to release the flesh from the bones, using long sweeping strokes. Don’t worry if the lamb ‘butterfly’ looks a little ragged: no one will notice once it’s sliced. If you’re not confident about doing this, have a look on the Internet for an instructional video.
  • To test whether the lamb is done to perfection, cut a small, deep slit in the thickest part of the meat. If it’s still a bloody pink inside, let it roast for 5-7 more minutes, then check again.
  • You can use large potatoes for this dish: boil them in their skins, taking care not to overcook them. Reheat them whole, then cut into thick slices.

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1 comment:

Nina said...

Why does my cashew chicken for tonight seems so bland all of a sudden...sigh!

Love the idea of prepping all this in advance!

PS Some asked me for a quince pate recipe, I sent them here!!