An Ottolenghi lunch

Ott Lamb

I cooked the most delicious lunch on Sunday. I know this for a fact because my mother told me about 17 times while we were eating it having had a couple too many glasses of Macon-Villages. Still, I’m never going to complain about being over-praised for something so thank you Mum and you’re very welcome.

The trouble is I can’t really take the credit for it. Not really. I have probably mentioned before that I’m not a ‘fussy’ cook. I’m someone who is much happier being able to throw everything into a pot and leave it for a few hours rather than running round the kitchen like a headless chicken with 5 different pans overflowing on the hob. But sometimes, when there’s no pressure, and it’s not for too many people, and I have time (oh how I long for the days when I had time) I love it. In this instance, Yotam Ottolenghi is the man that should be taking credit for our lunch. He is the chap to go to if you want something completely delicious but, more often than not, a little more complicated. As it turns out in this case it was blissfully easy and involved no complicated ingredients whatsoever. Of course I made it complicated myself by what I chose to serve alongside it but that is not the lamb (nor Ottolenghi’s) fault so I will take full responsibility for my actions…

Lamb rack

Marinated rack of lamb with coriander and honey (enough for 4)

  • 1kg rack of lamb, french trimmed
  • 20g flat leaf parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 30g mint, leaves and stalks
  • 30g coriander, leaves and stalks
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 15g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 chillies, seeded
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 120ml sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons water

Separate the rack into portions of two or three cutlets and place in a non-metallic bowl. Blitz together all the remaining ingredients in a blender or a food processor, pour them over the lamb and make sure it is well covered in the marinade. Cover and keep in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200c. Heat up a heavy cast iron pan, preferably a griddle pan. Remove the meat from the marinade, shaking off the excess. Sear well on all sides, about 5 minutes in total. Transfer to a baking tray and cook in the oven for about 15 mins, depending on the size of the racks and how well cooked you want them.

Meanwhile, heat the marinade in a small pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Both the cutlets and sauce can be served hot or at room temperature.

Ott Lamb2

When I had stuck my finger in the marinade the night before I had been a little bit nervous that the flavours weren’t entirely balanced. I now feel like a complete idiot for ever doubting the recipe. It was fantastic and we really did have the most stonking lunch. We had it with Ottolenghi’s marinated aubergines (from the same book – I forgot to make the tahini sauce but I don’t think it needed it), baby roast potatoes, spinach and pine nuts and yoghurt on the side (natural yoghurt with grated cucumber, a tiny amount of crushed garlic and ground cumin).

Auberg

I had thought this would go brilliantly with the Barbera d’Asti but with the multitude of flavours in this dish from all the fresh herbs it needed a white rather than a red wine. It was a much better match with the Roero Arneis which had the body to stand up to the lamb but the delicacy of flavour not to overpower the herbs and spices.

I love it when a lunch comes together.

Recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Italy can be tricky

I have always struggled with Italian wine. I don’t mean I have struggled to drink it (almost always a pleasure) but as a topic to learn about in the wine sense – it’s mammoth, and it’s tricky. This probably has something to do with the fact that Italy, as a country, wasn’t actually fully unified as we know it today until sometime around 1870 (I apologise for my vagueness – dates were never my strong point). Pretty much the entire of Italy produces wine, and I mean everyone; from the big big producers right down to the local postman with a few rows of vines in his back garden. And up until relatively recently they were all doing it completely differently with different grape varieties and different vinification techniques. It took a long time to modernise the Italian wine industry in terms of production because of this fragmentation. It produces some truly incredible wine (and of course food) in a range of different styles; the one helpful trick is that local food and local wine tend to go together so if you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself in Italy you don’t need to worry too much about your food and wine pairings – this should happen pretty organically.

This week I bought an Italian white and 2 Italian reds to have at home. Two out of the three were fairly successful purchases. The disappointing third was probably my fault as I reverted to the good old tactic of buying a wine based on the label. In my defence this does sometimes work but it’s a lazy way to buy wine and it serves me right.

Malvira’ Roero Arneis – £10.99

Arneis is the grape variety and Roero is the region which can be found to the south of Piedmont in the north west corner of Italy. Arneis means ‘rascal’ in Piedmontese, so called because it is such a difficult grape to grow. The Malvira’ is a great example of the fantastic wines that can be produced from this grape and region. A beautifully delicate nose of stone fruits and pears with the merest hint of rose petals and a firm streak of minerality. The palate is savoury, more so than the nose suggests, with flavours of green apples and minerals with relatively high acidity and a lovely buttery texture. For such an elegant wine it is actually quite full bodied and would go with all manner of fish dishes, grilled chicken or antipasti.

Tesco Finest Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2009 – £7.29

We can stay in Piedmont while we talk about this wine, Asti being the village it’s from and Barbera being the grape. Perhaps less recognisable as a grape than Sangiovese or Montepulciano it is nonetheless one of the most planted grape varieties in Italy. Ruby red in colour this wine has a nose of cherries and a hint of drink fruit and sweet spice. These flavours follow through on the palate but with more of a white pepper spice and earthiness. It’s nice and pleasant but lacks a bit of depth. What did confuse me is that it’s described on the bottle as being ‘rich and full’. It’s not. This is on the thin side of medium bodied. Nonetheless it’s enjoyable and its tannins give the wine a decent structure. I might try a glass of this with my lamb tomorrow.

Piccini Super Tuscan 2008 Toscana – £8.99

The term ‘Super Tuscan’ can be applied to any wine from Tuscany that does not adhere to the tight legal restrictions of the region in terms of grape varieties and winemaking techniques. The first Super Tuscan was Sassicaia which is now hailed as one of the great wines of the world. There have been many since then which have been extremely high in terms of quality, normally full bodied, modern styles of red wine which often use Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant grape. Let me be clear – this is not one of those wines. Sadly the Piccini was a real disappointment; a mediocre nose was followed by a palate that lacked any real depth of flavour or body. I also feel a little ripped off as this cost almost a full £2 more than the Barbera d’Asti.

What have we learnt today – don’t judge a wine by its label! As if I didn’t already know that… Luckily the other two wines (especially the Roero Arneis) have made up for it.