Lamb cutlets and selected spring greens
Green and pink. Pink and green. Two of my favourite spring colours. Whether it be the beginnings of the berry season, the soft downy centres of broad bean pods, or the subtlety of spring lamb, they are colours that keep reappearing in the palette of my spring dishes.
Here, we have a small amount of delicious pink spring lamb, with a large amount of green accompaniment.
For some years now I have been putting my own personal tastes under the microscope of current trends and political leanings. There is no escaping that I am a carnivore. Not only do I enjoy eating meat, but I also love to cook with it. I also happen to live with three vegetarians, which has certainly had an effect on how much meat and poultry I now consume. Another driver that affects the way that I choose how much meat I eat is my constant interaction with small farmers and producers.
All the meat I choose to serve at du Fermier and to put on my own plate has been selected with a very close eye on its provenance and the animal husbandry standards in which the beasts have been kept. The upshot of it all is that I am very firmly rooted in the camp of treating meat as a luxury item.
It is far better for our environment, our economy, animal welfare and our own health to eat less meat but make much wiser choices when buying it. It is not always true that more expensive meat is better. I am also aware not everyone has the luxury of making the choices I get to make or having access to the inside information I have.
However, there are certain rules of thumb I feel are important. The basic one is that the more carefully farmed an animal is, and the more care the farmer takes with protecting the environmental sustainability of the land that they farm, increases the overall cost of bringing that produce to the table. So in my mind, it is far better that we eat less meat, treat it with great respect and pair it with a far greater portion of vegetable and salad components, rather than eating a huge portion of protein, a pile of carbohydrate and a garnish-size sprinkling of greens. And, I imagine, our overall health statistics will also slide to the happier side of the register.
Lamb cutlets and selected spring greens
– 1 bulb garlic
– 50ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
– salt and pepper
– 6 sprigs thyme
– 300g shelled broad beans
– 200g shelled peas
– 8 lamb cutlets
– 150g lamb’s lettuce or similar
– 200g fresh ricotta
Preheat oven to 160ºC.
Cut the garlic bulb in half, drizzle each face with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place the sprigs of thyme on a half. Put the two halves together, wrap in foil and bake in the oven for about two hours, until soft. Keep at room temperature.
While the garlic is roasting, bring a pot of water to the boil. Plunge the broad beans in for two minutes, drain and then refresh under cold water. Pop the broad beans out of their outer casing. Divide the quantity of beans in two, put half aside and crush the others with the back of a fork, slowly working in the 50 millilitres of olive oil as you go. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat up a ribbed pan or grill plate. Meanwhile, bring another small saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the peas. When they are just cooked, refresh them under cold water.
Rub a little olive oil onto the faces of each lamb cutlet, season with salt and pepper, grill on each side for about three minutes. More if you like your lamb well cooked.
I like to arrange this as a dish for people to share. Dress the lamb’s lettuce in a simple vinaigrette and place in a pile. Spoon the coarsely mashed broad beans onto the plate and rest the cutlets on it. Arrange a mixed pile of the remaining broad beans and peas, place the slice of ricotta on the plate and season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of olive oil. Lastly, arrange the roasted garlic halves on the plate.
The idea of this dish is to spread some of the soft, unctuous roasted garlic onto the cutlet and eat with the different textures and flavours of the spring greens, augmented by the velvety texture of the ricotta.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 21, 2017 as "Meat expectations". Subscribe here.