Thursday 8 December 2016

Easter lamb: special Easter treat

Put a spring in your step, says Brenda Costigan, with a traditional Easter Sunday dinner of tender, tasty lamb served with kidney gravy, fresh mint sauce, peas and roast potatoes

Published 17/04/2011 | 11:03

Stuffed lamb chops
Stuffed lamb chops

What is it about spring that almost wakes us up after the winter? You could nearly say it puts a spring in our step. Don't you just love the fresh foliage and the riot of daffodils that are now abundant along our roadsides?

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Spring lamb is always a special Easter treat. The lambs are very seasonal, as they are only about five months old. They are very tender, usually have a delicate taste, and are particularly tasty when the flesh is studded with garlic slivers and bits of rosemary before roasting. A leg of lamb with good gravy, roast spuds and peas is one of my favourite meals. To finish off your Easter Sunday dinner, make my dessert of pavlova, garnished with delicious fruits.

LAMB WITH GINGER AND HERBS

Ginger and herbs are mixed together and spread on the lamb about 30 minutes before it is fully cooked. This recipe is inspired by a suggestion from Bord Bia.

You will need:

1 leg of lamb weighing about 1.8-2.6kg (4-6lb)

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

150ml (1/4pt) water

For the topping, you will need:

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

1 dessertspoon fresh root ginger, finely chopped

Grated rind of a small lemon

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6.

Weigh the meat. Place the roughly chopped onion and the chopped garlic in the centre of a roasting pan and sit the joint of lamb on top. Season the meat with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour the water around the meat. Put the tin into the oven. After about 20 minutes, reduce the heat down to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5 and continue roasting, allowing about 20-25 minutes for every 450g (1lb) of meat.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Put the peeled garlic cloves, the finely chopped fresh root ginger, the grated lemon rind, and the chopped fresh parsley, mint and rosemary into a food processor and buzz for a minute or two until everything is finely chopped. Then add the olive oil, slowly buzzing until you are left with a bright-green mixture. Alternatively, you can chop everyting very finely by hand and then mix in the olive oil.

Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the oven and spread the herby topping mixture over the surface and return the lamb to the oven to finish cooking. Top up with a little water if necessary. Keep the tasty juices from the tin to add to your favourite gravy.

KIDNEY GRAVY

This makes a most delicious gravy to serve with roast lamb or the stuffed lamb chops, see the next recipe. Serves 4-6.

You will need:

1 heaped tablespoon onion, chopped

1 small garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 lamb kidneys

50g (2oz) button mushrooms, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence

A pinch or two of ground cumin (just a hint)

1 tablespoon cornflour

About 400ml (almost 3/4pt) chicken stock

Juices from the roast lamb or lamb chops

Fry the chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil until they are golden. Meanwhile, chop the lamb kidneys, using only the brown meat and discarding the core, which is paler and firmer. Add the chopped kidneys to the pan and fry, with the onions and garlic, to cook lightly. Add the chopped button mushrooms to the pan and fry them until they are soft, also adding in the salt and freshly ground black pepper, the herbes de Provence and a hint of the ground cumin.

Add the cornflour to the pan, stir it through the ingredients, then pour in the chicken stock, a little at a time, and bring to the boil. Spoon any fat off the juices from the roast lamb or the lamb chops, whichever you're using, and add the remaining juices to the gravy. Bring the gravy to the boil and then serve.

STUFFED LAMB CHOPS

(Pictured)

A handy recipe when cooking for small numbers. Use sideloin chops (they have no central bone), or small, chunky leg-of-lamb steaks. A little pocket is cut into the meat, which is then filled with the stuffing -- the ingredients of which are similar to the gravy above, but without the liquid. The meat is browned on the pan, and the cooking can be finished in the oven. Serve with the kidney gravy. Serves 4.

You will need:

1 heaped tablespoon onion, chopped

1 small garlic clove, chopped

1-4 tablespoons olive oil

2 lamb kidneys

50g (2oz) button mushrooms, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence

A pinch or two of ground cumin (just a hint)

4 side loin chops or 4 individual leg of lamb steaks (ask your butcher to cut a pocket in each one), season the inside of each pocket with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wooden cocktail sticks

To make the stuffing, fry the chopped onion and garlic in one tablespoon of the olive oil until they are golden. Chop the lamb kidneys, using only the brown meat, discarding the core, which is paler and firmer. Add the chopped kidneys to the pan and fry, with the garlic and onions, to cook lightly. Next, add the chopped button mushrooms to the pan and fry them until they are soft, also adding in the salt and freshly ground black pepper, the herbes de Provence and a hint of the ground cumin.

Spoon this stuffing into the pockets that your butcher has already cut in the meat of the chops or lamb steaks. If any stuffing is left over, it can be used in the gravy. Pin each pocket closed with one or two wooden cocktail sticks. Heat another tablespoon of the olive oil in the pan and fry the chops or the lamb steaks, whichever you are using, turning carefully to brown the second side. Cover the pan with foil and cook gently for about 10-15 minutes, until the meat is nicely cooked. If you prefer, transfer the chops or lamb steaks to the oven, preheated to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5. Cover with some foil and cook for 15 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking.

Lift the chops or lamb steaks off on to a warm dish. Spoon any fat off the remaining juices in the pan, and then add the juices to the kidney gravy.

If you like, you can make a simpler version of the kidney gravy to serve with these stuffed chops or lamb steaks.

Use a little extra chopped onion, some extra chopped garlic and a couple of extra mushrooms, and fry the lot in a tablespoon of olive oil until everything is soft and tasty -- include any bits of the stuffing that has been left over, too. Flavour with some salt, freshly ground black pepper, and, following the kidney gravy recipe, add in a couple of pinches of herbes de Provence and a pinch of cumin. Then, thicken with the cornflour and add in the chicken stock.

Bring to the boil. Add all the tasty juices and bits from the cooking pan to the gravy while it is boiling. Serve immediately.

MINT SAUCE

The sharp flavour of the mint sauce goes well with the roast lamb. Serves about 6.

You will need:

6 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped

2-4 teaspoons caster sugar (or to taste)

3-4 tablespoons boiling water

4 tablespoons wine vinegar

Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chopped fresh mint leaves and the caster sugar in a bowl. Pour in the boiling water. Add the wine vinegar and the squeeze of lemon juice, if you are using it. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and, if necessary, add an extra touch more sugar and/or vinegar.

EASY PEAS

This easy recipe is inspired by one of Jamie Oliver's. Prepare it at the last minute because it is best served soon after cooking. Serves 4.

You will need:

4 handfuls frozen peas

3-4 thin spring onions, cut in 2.5cm (1in) lengths

1/2 wine glass white wine

1/2 wine glass water

2 good knobs of butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few mint leaves, chopped

Put the frozen peas and the spring onions into a wide saucepan, which has a lid, and add in the white wine, the water and the butter. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the saucepan with the lid and bring to the boil, then remove the lid and simmer for a few minutes. The liquid will reduce right down and the butter and wine will make a tasty sauce. Add the mint leaves and serve.

EASTER EGG PAVLOVA

This can be decorated with a collection of fruits such as peach slices, chopped, ripe mango or passion fruit. The final touch is to sprinkle some toasted flaked almonds and some grated chocolate over the top. Tiny chocolate eggs are a nice seasonal decoration.

You will need:

3 large egg whites

175g (6oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the topping, you will need:

250ml (9fl oz) fresh cream, whipped

1 tin peach slices, drained

1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped or cut in thin wedges like the peaches

1 passion fruit, insides scooped out

25g (1oz) toasted flaked almonds

25g (1 oz) dark chocolate, grated

Small chocolate eggs (optional)

Use a baking tin with baking parchment lining the base. Preheat the oven to 120 C, 250 F, Gas 1.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and then beat in the caster sugar a little at a time. Whisk in the vanilla essence, the cornflour and the lemon juice. When the meringue is stiff enough to turn the bowl upside down, it is ready. Draw out a ring shape on the parchment. Spread out the meringue in the ring, making the centre slightly shallower with the edges deeper. Bake for one hour, then turn off the oven and leave the meringue in for another hour. It will be nice and crisp on the outside. Allow to cool, on the tin, on a wire tray.

Put on a serving plate, spoon the whipped cream over the top and then spoon over the peach slices, the chopped mango and the passion fruit. Scatter over the toasted flaked almonds, the grated dark chocolate and the small chocolate eggs, if you are using them.

L

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