Wednesday 21 March 2018

Spring is in the air

Quick-cook lamb and a divinely rich chocolate cake, says Rachel Allen, will make a wonderfully easy Easter Sunday lunch. Photography by Tony Gavin

Roast rack of spring lamb with cumin
Roast rack of spring lamb with cumin
Rachel Allen. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Rachel Allen

By far my favourite meat to serve at our Easter meal is a piece of sweet spring lamb. The lateness of Easter this year means that we can enjoy the season's new lamb when – for me –it is at its best.

A rack of lamb, with its abundance of tender, succulent chops, is the perfect centrepiece to the Easter table, ideal for the celebration of spring.

Unlike a tough shoulder or shank, this part of the lamb does not require long, slow, patient cooking. At a high heat, the rack is cooked in under half an hour and, as your butcher will prepare it, you have very little work to do!

This recipe is very simple. The only addition I've made is just a little toasted cumin, which works perfectly with the other parts of this meal.

At other times, though, you can embellish a rack of lamb even more, using a mixture of spices, such as coriander and paprika. I also like to use harissa paste as a marinade, or even tapenade.

As there isn't much work for the main event, I like to spend some more time on the accompaniments. Rather than mint sauce, I'm making a mint chutney.

It has a nice balance of sweet and sharp, with some heat from the cayenne pepper. You can add more cayenne if you'd like a spicier chutney. Do save some in a jar if you can, as it makes a lovely companion to curries.

Tzatziki is a Greek speciality. It's a nice, refreshing cucumber and yoghurt mixture, and can be served as an accompanying salad or as a sauce to serve with grilled fish or meat.

This tzatziki recipe makes a lot. You can halve the recipe, if you'd like, but I love having some of this left over in the fridge to drizzle over baked potatoes or with some grilled chicken as a filling for a warm pitta bread.

Then, it wouldn't be Easter without chocolate! This divinely rich chocolate cake can be made a few days ahead.

I like to decorate the cake with mini chocolate eggs for a festive touch.

Roast rack of spring lamb with cumin

Serves 4-6.

You will need:

2 prepared racks of spring lamb – your butcher will prepare them for you

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly toasted and ground cumin

Remove the thin layer of skin from the top of the fat of your spring lamb, then score the fat, but make sure that you don't cut through to the meat. Refrigerate until needed.

Preheat the oven to 220°C, 425°F, Gas mark 7.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the fat on the racks of lamb with salt, then rub them all over with the freshly ground black pepper and the toasted, ground cumin.

Roast the lamb, fat side upwards, for about 25 minutes, if you'd like it to still be pink in the middle.

Keep the racks of lamb in the oven for 30 minutes if you'd prefer the meat to be a little more cooked.

When the lamb has cooked, remove it from the oven and place on a warm serving dish.

Allow the lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving, to allow the juices to redistribute evenly through the meat.

Carve the lamb and serve 2-3 cutlets per person, depending on size.


Apple and mint chutney

Serves 4-6.

You will need:

1 large cooking apple, peeled and cored

A large handful of fresh mint leaves

50g (2oz) onion

25g (1oz) caster sugar

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pinch of salt

I make this in a food processor, though you can chop everything very finely by hand if you don't have one.

Whizz up the peeled, cored apple, the fresh mint, the onion, the caster sugar, the cayenne pepper and the salt. Taste, adding more salt or sugar if necessary. Add more cayenne if you'd like it hotter.



Serves 10-12.

You will need:

1 cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into roughly 1cm dices

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Dash of wine vinegar or lemon juice

450ml (16fl oz) Greek yoghurt

2 tablespoons cream

1 heaped tablespoon of freshly chopped mint

Pinch of sugar (optional)

Put the diced cucumber in a sieve, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Dry the cucumber on kitchen paper. Put it in a bowl and mix with the crushed garlic, the wine vinegar or lemon juice, whichever you are using, and the yoghurt and the cream.

Stir in the freshly chopped mint and taste – it may need a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper, or even a pinch of sugar.


Chocolate cake

Serves 8.

For the cake, you will need:

1 tablespoon melted butter, for greasing

20cm cake or springform tin

Greaseproof paper

150g (5oz) dark chocolate, chopped

125g (4½oz) butter

150g (5oz) caster sugar

3 eggs, whisked

50g (2oz) plain flour or ground almonds

For the glaze, you will need:

110g (4oz) dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

2 tablespoons milk

50g (2oz) butter

Mini chocolate eggs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170°C, 325°F, Gas mark 3. Butter the sides of a 20cm cake or springform tin, and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.

Place the chopped dark chocolate, the butter and the caster sugar into a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water and melt.

Stir until smooth, beat in the whisked eggs and fold in the plain flour or ground almonds, whichever you are using. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the centre is just set. Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the chocolate glaze, melt the chopped chocolate, the milk and the butter together and stir until smooth.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, until it has thickened slightly, but not in the fridge, as it will lose its glossy sheen.

Take the cooled cake out of the tin, put on a plate or cake stand, and pour the glaze over it. Decorate with the mini chocolate eggs if you'd like.

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