‘Challenge Sam’; the idea sounded so good as I sat in the light and airy Ginger Pig test kitchen, and I left our meeting excited, looking forward to a mystery box of quality ingredients winging their way to me within the next week. It would be like Ready Steady Cook, without the jazzy-shirted Colgate-pearly Ainsley Harriott to cheerlead me along the way.
This excitement lasted all week, but slowly an anxious curiosity crept in. What were they going to send me? I had sudden visions of opening boxes to discover bulging pig’s eyes, or having to spend an evening researching the best uses for happily-reared calves’ brains. Soon it was the fateful Thursday afternoon and a kind, aproned man handed over a hefty box delivered by Hubbub. This fellow looked decent and honest, surely he wasn’t in on this dastardly sheep bladder shaped plan. I was like a (terrified) child on Christmas day as I tipped the box onto my worktop to discover the following:
2 chunks of what looked like lamb (on closer inspection the rump and the neck fillet)
Some blood oranges
2 small hispi cabbages
First came a wave of relief. I recognised those two lovely cuts of lamb, and having cooked both before was confident that I could get that bit right. It was the blood oranges that threw me the most. Normally the thought of fruit and meat makes my stomach turn a little, and I had certainly never combined lamb and orange before. Thankfully lamb is naturally beautifully fatty, and this marries well with sweetness from things like peas, beetroot and red cabbage, so hopefully I would manage to incorporate the sweet citrus fruit in there too.
The rules were fairly open and I was kindly able to add some store-cupboard ingredients in order to complete the dishes. I have to admit that I cheekily bent this rule a little, adding the odd potato and other herbs that I had hanging around in the kitchen. But these only acted as carrying agents, and flavours of the mystery box ingredients sing the most. The hardest thing was trying to include everything over the two recipes, and I very nearly managed it. The only ingredient that didn’t feature was the rice, though not from lack of trying.
I was really happy with the eventual results. The lamb was cooked perfectly and surprisingly went really well with a hint of orange flavour.
So without further ado…
Roasted rump of lamb with charred hispi cabbage, aubergine and butter bean puree and oregano and blood orange salsa verde
Italians will probably choke at my addition of orange juice to this classic green sauce. But the sweet tanginess combines in harmony with the earthy aubergine, charred cabbage and tender lamb.
For the lamb:
1 rump of lamb, approx. 500g, trimmed but with most of the fat left on
For the salsa verde:
½ a bunch of oregano, finely chopped
½ a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp English mustard
Splash of white wine vinegar
1 ½ blood oranges, juice only
Extra virgin olive oil
For the hispi cabbage:
½ a small hispi cabbage
1 tsp caster sugar
For the aubergine and butter bean puree:
1 tin of butter beans, drained
1 clove of garlic
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 lemon, juice only
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Take the lamb out of the fridge about an hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 190⁰C (fan).
To make the aubergine puree, heat up a heavy pan or griddle. When really hot, coat the aubergine with olive oil and seasoning and place in the hot pan. Fry for about 15 minutes, turning three or four times, until the skin is charred and the inside very soft. Rest until cool enough to handle, then split lengthways and scoop the innards into a food processor. Add the drained butter beans, garlic, cumin, olive oil, half the lemon juice and a good amount of seasoning. Blend until well combined but so it still has a little texture to it. Taste and add more lemon juice, cumin or seasoning if needed. Cover and set aside.
While the aubergine is cooking make the salsa verde. Finely chop the oregano, parsley, garlic and anchovy together and then transfer to a bowl. Add the mustard, vinegar, chilli flakes, seasoning and enough extra virgin olive oil to give the mixture a loose consistency. Squeeze in the blood orange juice to taste; you want there to be a balance between the punch of the garlic, anchovies and vinegar and the sweetness of the juice. Mix well and put aside.
Slice the hispi cabbage lengthways into cross sections about 1.5cm thick. Put onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and sugar.
Heat a heavy, non-stick frying pan to a high temperature. Rub the lamb with salt, pepper and olive oil and place in the pan fat-side down. Fry for a couple of minutes on the one side until well-browned and crispy. Seal the rest of the meat for about 30 seconds on each side, then transfer to an oven tray and roast for anywhere between 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Check occasionally by giving it a squeeze or using a meat thermometer, it should still have a bit of give and be 60⁰C in the middle for pink. Remove to a chopping board and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
While the meat is resting roast the cabbage for about 10 minutes, so that the heart is al dente and the leaves are starting to frazzle and char around the edges.
Heat up the puree if you prefer, although I like it at room temperature.
To plate up, spoon a good dollop of the puree into the middle of each plate and lay a piece of cabbage on top. Thickly slice the lamb, season and arrange on top and finally spoon over some of the salsa verde.
Seared neck of lamb with blood orange puree, anchovy and parsley dumplings, roasted onions and rosemary sauce
Having to boil the orange six times to make the puree may seem like a major faff, but it eradicates any bitterness to create a beautifully smooth and sweet sauce. This is wonderfully tempered by the rosemary sauce and the salty, herby dumplings.
The poor turnip in the mystery box also faced the blender. Other root veg such as celeriac, swede or even beetroot would also fit in here, although changing the milk for water in the case of the latter.
Serves 2 generously.
For the lamb:
2 lamb neck fillets
For the blood orange puree:
1 large blood orange, left whole
4 blood oranges, juice only
100g caster sugar
A splash of white wine vinegar
4 sprigs of thyme
For the anchovy and parsley dumplings:
1 large floury potato
3 anchovy fillets
4 cloves of garlic
½ a bunch of parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg yolk
30g strong flour
For the roasted onions:
1 onion, skinned and cut vertically into 1” wedges
1 tbsp sugar
For the turnip puree:
1 large turnip, cut into 1” chunks
750ml milk, or enough to cover the turnip in a saucepan
5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
For the rosemary sauce:
The trimmings from the lamb, and any others you can get from your butcher
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs of rosemary
1 glass of white wine
500ml of good quality chicken stock
First make the blood orange puree. Make 1cm-deep incisions all over the orange then place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes, then drain. Repeat this process 5 times, leaving to boil for about 25 minutes on the final go. Allow to cool slightly in the water. Put the sugar into a clean saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat over a high temperature, swirling occasionally to combine, but do not stir with a spoon at this stage. When the moisture reduces and a golden brown caramel forms add the cooked orange and the thyme sprigs. At this point stir well, crushing the orange which should fall apart. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes then pour in the vinegar and reduce almost fully. Top up with the juice and reduce again until nearly all of the moisture has gone. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then remove the thyme and transfer to a food processor and blend really well. Pass through a fine sieve and pour into a plastic bottle. Set aside or put in the fridge if making in advance.
Preheat the oven to 200⁰C.
Put the potato and garlic cloves into a small oven dish, season well and toss in a little olive oil. Cover tightly with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the garlic and put the potato back in for another 45 minutes or until tender. While the garlic is roasting, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and quickly blanch the parsley for about 20 seconds, then plunge into a bowl of cold water. Squeeze away any excess moisture then transfer to a small food processor with the peeled roasted garlic, anchovy fillets, a good amount of seasoning and the olive oil. Blitz until very finely chopped. When the potato is cooked, scoop out the middle and pass through a sieve into a mixing bowl. Fold in the parsley mix and the egg yolk until combined, and then add enough of the flour to just bind the dough together. Bring another small saucepan of salty water to the boil. Roll the dumpling mixture into small balls and plunge into the boiling water. When the dumplings float transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and then drain and carefully tip onto an oiled plate. Toss to coat then aside for frying later.
To make the sauce, heat up a large skillet or frying pan and add a little oil. When the pan is hot, season the lamb trimmings and fry on all sides until well browned. Add the onion and garlic and colour before pouring in the white wine. Allow to bubble and reduce by half then top up with the chicken stock and herbs. Bring to the boil and reduce for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid and thickened and there is only about 200ml remaining. Strain into a small saucepan for heating and finishing later.
Peel the turnip and cut into 1” chunks. Tip into a small saucepan and add the thyme and bay leaf, then season well and cover with the milk. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until fully tender. Drain well, reserving the liquid, and then transfer to a food processor. Add the butter and puree well, adding a splash of the cooking milk until consistency is fine and light. Pass through a sieve and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (fan).
Cut the onion into chunky wedges and put on a baking tray. Toss with olive oil, seasoning and the sugar and then roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the centres are soft and sweet and the edges slightly charred. Peel into individual layers.
While the onion is roasting cook the lamb. Put a heavy non-stick pan on a medium-high heat. Rub the meat with lots of salt and pepper and a little oil. Cook for about 10 minutes in total, turning a couple of times so that all surfaces are well browned. Add the butter a minute or two towards the end and baste well. When the lamb is still a little spongy to the touch and about 60⁰C in the centre, take it off the heat and allow to rest for 5-6 minutes.
When the lamb is resting finish the other elements of the dish:
Reheat the puree and sauce, stirring the butter into the latter just before serving.
Heat a non-stick pan to a medium temperature and add a little oil. When hot toss in the parsley and anchovy dumplings and cook for a couple of minutes until lightly browned on the edges.
To serve, spoon a little bit of the turnip puree onto the middle of each plate. Carve the lamb thickly and arrange on top. Scatter some of the dumplings and onion pieces around the meat, and dot a little of the orange puree in-between. Finally spoon over some of the rosemary sauce and tuck in.