Wed 01 May 2013

Food Without Fuss: Gather Ye Tastebuds While It’s May

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These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the spring 2013 selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Voted Best Wine Club by Which? Magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

What a season it is for inspirational ingredients, and some of them are even free! Keep your eyes peeled in particular for wild garlic, one of nature’s wonders. It lends a subtle tang rather than a pungent hit to pasta sauces, herb butters and stuffings. Get foraging while the short season lasts and you know the rules – give popular dog walks and diesel-infused roadsides a wide berth!

Only strong mountain lamb or more mature beasts (hogget) should, I feel, be bludgeoned with whole cloves of garlic and rosemary twiglets, so if you can’t find wild garlic, use a tablespoon of garlic-flavoured oil to flavour the spinach while it wilts, and another to paint the lamb. My well-aired view that mint sauce is a tastebud terrorist of the first water is not widely shared (I know, don’t write in!) but could I implore that aficionados try a spot of gradual withdrawal by putting some mint leaves in the stuffing instead?

Spring lamb suits generous but balanced whites and dry, herby rosés very well. Good bets from the spring Wine Without Fuss selections include Château Beauregard Ducasse Graves, 2011 (Buyers’ French Classics) and The Quest Semillon (Premium Selection). Red hardliners should avoid anything too overpowering and for me, claret is perfect. The zip of Château Florie Aude Les Argilières, 2008 (Buyers’ Everyday Selection) and the elegant maturity of Château d’Aurilhac, Haut-Médoc, 2004 (Buyers’ French Classics) work beautifully in their different ways as does the simultaneous cool poise and spicy warmth of the Uruguayan marselan from Atlántico (Premium Selection).

Spring Lamb with Spinach, Herbs and Wild Garlic, and a Roasted Onion and Fennel Sauce
For 6 people

1 leg of spring or salt-marsh lamb, bones removed (1.8-2kg after boning)
A bag of spinach leaves, or a bunch, thoroughly destemmed and well washed
A generous bunch of wild garlic, leaves only, washed and roughly chopped
30g butter
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Freshly-grated nutmeg – a scant ¼ of a kernel should do it
2 tbs basil or marjoram leaves, roughly torn
2 tbs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbs mint leaves, chopped
1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
Rapeseed or olive oil
Salt and pepper
200ml wine, any colour

Lay the lamb flat, skin side down on a work board. Trim off any obvious fat and if necessary, bash to an even flatness with a meat hammer. Season it well with salt and pepper.

Put the spinach and the wild garlic in a saucepan on a medium heat with the butter and half of the lemon juice. Season with the nutmeg and black pepper. Let it wilt and transfer it into a sieve placed on a bowl, squeezing it dry. Save the buttery, lemony spicy liquid for the sauce. In another bowl mix the spinach, herbs, lemon zest and the remaining lemon juice. Lay the mixture in a line down the middle of the lamb.

Now roll it up as tightly as you can and tie at regular intervals with string to keep the stuffing in. It won’t be a pretty sight but looks aren’t everything. At this stage, you can cover and refrigerate it until needed but do remove it an hour before cooking to take the chill off.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Brush a roasting tin with oil and add the onion and fennel wedges. Sit the lamb on top and brush that with oil too, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas 5 and roast for an hour. Add the wine to the pan and continue roasting for 15 minutes for an even, slightly blushing result. This doesn’t want to be bloody or too pink. Lift the lamb onto a warm platter, cover with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.

While it’s doing that, put the onion and fennel into a blender or processor, and pulse to a thick puree. Put the roasting tin on the hob, add the reserved spinach cooking liquor and bubble down the juices until concentrated and syrupy. Add the pureed vegetables and stir well. Transfer to a sauce-boat and keep warm. Alternatively, you could lift out the vegetables and serve them as a garnish.

Carve in thickish slices, nap with a little sauce and serve with steamed Jersey royals and a mixture of asparagus, peas and green beans.

Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager

Categories : Wine Without Fuss

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