Easter Lamb

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I spent Easter in north Devon with my soon-to-be in laws, walking along beaches, exploring smugglers’ villages, cooking and chilling out.  The weather held for two out of three days, which is more than you can expect from an English bank holiday, so no complaints there.  I always find that Easter is a wonderful time for gathering together and breaking bread, without the stresses of decorating, present buying and the dreaded turkey cooking that comes with Christmas.  This is a much more relaxed affair, free from quite so many expectations.   There’s really only one thing I insist on at Easter: roast lamb, at its best right now.
 
This year, I studded mine with garlic and slow cooked it for 5 hours on a bed of spuds and onion.  However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you could try this almond milk braised recipe.  Cooking with almond milk is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages and I was not disappointed.  It adds a richness that works particularly well with the fennel and beans here, and makes for a really succulent, tender lamb.  You could also veer towards north African with the flavours, adding chilli, coriander and cumin before roasting then scattering with pomegranate seeds.  I think that would work particularly well, but felt that something a bit more classic would be more appropriate for Easter.
 
The photographs in this post are, yet again, taken by Faith Mason during an Easter-themed testing session.  I particularly love the black and white photo of duck eggs, with their pearlescent shells.  The blue eggs are in fact not painted (although that would be pretty fitting for Easter), but come from Cotswold Old Legbar hens and naturally have a slightly turquoise hue.  You can find them from Clarence Court, along with many other exciting egg varieties.  
 
 
 
 
 

Almond milk Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Cannellini Beans, Fennel and Baby Carrots

You will need:
1/2 shoulder of lamb, approx 1kg/2 lb 3 oz
3 fat garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 green chillis, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley stalks
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly bashed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
300ml/10 fl oz almond milk (unsweetened)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
baby carrots, to serve
flaked almonds and chopped parsley leaves, to serve

 

 

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4.  Using a small knife, make little incisions all over the meat and insert the slivers of garlic.  Mix together the parsley stalks, cumin seeds, lemon juice and zest, smoked paprika, olive oil and 1 tsp of salt (preferably sea salt) in a small bowl to form a thick paste.  Rub this all over the lamb.

2. Place the onion and fennel in a roasting tray, season and pour over the almond milk.  Sit the lamb snugly in the tray.  Cover with tin foil and roast for 1 hour, basting a few times, then remove from the oven and tip in the beans.  Continue to roast for a further 30 minutes, uncovered, until tender.  Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes then scatter with chopped parsley and flaked almonds.  Serve with steamed baby carrots, still slightly crunch and, if you like, some of the beans, fennel and milk whizzed into a thick sauce. 

Beans for lunch

My domestic task for this week is to rearrange the kitchen.  I think I was inspired by the ergonomically sound layout and design of the Secret Larder (particularly the labelled fridge shelves).  Oh to have those worktops!  The storage solutions!  But I’ll try to make the most of the space I do have and see how it goes. 

I think my kitchen’s problem is essentially two-fold.  1) I recently got my bread maker out of storage and have been enjoying making homemade loaves (with mixed success, there’s a learning curve), but the thing does take up quite a lot of space.  2) I can’t seem resist picking up new ingredients all the time.  A bottle of this, a jar of that soon add up to a full suitcase on my travels or an overflowing handbag out and about in London. 

So our counters are permanently brimming, which can drive me potty from time to time.  One obvious way around this is to actually use up the store cupboard stuff before seeking out new treasures.  So I set myself a challenge for lunch today to find thrifty ways to use things up (see also my austerity soup).  I made a warm salad of chickpeas, spinach and garlic with a good drizzle of olive oil, pomegranate molasses and a sprinkle of paprika and sea salt (I nabbed more than my fair share of  fleur de sel at my friend Jen’s wedding in the GuĂ©rande region of Brittany back in September, where little bags of the famous sea salt were given as favours).  

A good way for using up any pita bread hiding in the freezer is to turn them into crisps for snacking on.  Simply toast to defrost, cut into strips, toss in some olive oil and put in the oven.  You can add cumin, salt, pepper, herbs, etc. to flavour.  I served these with a cannellini bean and rosemary dip (made with rosemary oil and flaked almonds).   That’s about six store cupboard items used so I can definitely justify at least three more culinary purchases now.