Generally when we think of roast lamb for a special meal, we picture a succulent slow-roast shoulder or leg; always delicious and a real crowd-pleaser too. But if you’re after something a little quicker but with equal pizzazz, then a rack of lamb is the way to go, with guaranteed oohs and aahs when you carve it into cutlets at the table.
Lamb and spice is a match made in heaven, and the spicy crust on this rack packs a fabulously aromatic punch, full of Middle Eastern warmth and zing. These robust, rich flavours are balanced by the comforting herby mashed potato, enhanced with slightly tangy cream cheese and the smoky softness of roast garlic, alongside a simple dish of braised lettuce with peas, lemon and spring onion.
This is hearty-comfort-food meets family-gathering-showpiece – without hours in the making.
Spiced rack of lamb with braised lettuce and herb mash
For the herby mash
1 head of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
500g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled, halved and quartered
salt and pepper to taste
150g Holy Cow organic cream cheese
large handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
large handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
For the spiced rack of lamb
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
3 tbsp olive oil
500g French trimmed rack of lamb – I got mine from The Well Hung Meat Company
For the braised lettuce
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 little gem lettuces, shredded
150ml hot chicken stock
150g frozen petis pois
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.
Slice off the top of a whole head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, loosely wrap in tin foil and place on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for around 30 minutes, until the cloves are soft when you pierce with a knife. Remove and leave to cool.
Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes until just soft. Drain in a colander and return to the hot pan with the butter. Leave for a few minutes to allow the butter to melt.
Season with salt and pepper, and add the cream cheese. Use your fingers to squeeze in the soft garlic cloves from their skins. Use a hand blender to create a smooth puree. Stir in the chopped mint and parsley. Set aside and keep warm.
To make the herb crust, simply mix the ground spices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Increase the oven heat to 240°C / gas mark 9.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter and 1 tablespoonful of oil and when the butter begins to foam, add the rack of lamb to the pan meaty side down and brown for around 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Retain the pan with all those lovely juices for braising the lettuce later.
Place the rack in a roasting tin and brush generously with the spice mixture. Cover the bones with foil to prevent from burning. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes for medium, and 15 minutes for well done. Remove and leave to rest for a couple of minutes before slicing into cutlets.
While the lamb is roasting, prepare the braised lettuce. In the same pan you used to brown the lamb rack, gently cook the spring onions in butter until soft. Stir the shredded lettuce into the buttery spring onions. Cook for a minute or two until the lettuce is wilted, then pour in the hot stock. Simmer for five minutes or so until the lettuce is tender and the stock has reduced.
Add the peas and cook for a minute or two more. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, and season if needed.
Serve on warmed plates and enjoy. And yes, you do have permission to pick up the cutlets with your fingers!
Disclosure: I was supplied with a complimentary samples of lamb from the Well Hung Meat Company and cream cheese from Holy Cow in order to develop this recipe. As ever all views expressed are mine and only products I genuinely like make it onto my blog.