So on Sunday, I made my first ever roast dinner. And it turned out...tasty! I'm pretty proud of myself, so I'm going to share a few recipes with you so you can do your own too.
I've helped out with Sunday lunch in the kitchen before and picked up a few hints and tips from my parents here and there, but this time, scarily, there weren't any seasoned cooks standing next to me ready to hold my hand. Well...except one. Michel Roux Jr., a.k.a. the MasterChef.
I gave Michel's newest cookbook, The French Kitchen, to my boyfriend for Christmas. Last week we finally plumped on a recipe to try out: Carré d'agneau rôti provençale (that's roast rack of lamb, Provence-style, to you and me) with ratatouille and roast potatoes.
We wandered down to our local butcher's in the morning and asked for a rack of lamb. French trimmed, naturellement.
When we got back, it was time to roll.
First we prepped all the veg for the ratatouille (two large tomatoes, one red bell pepper, one aubergine, one courgette, three cloves of garlic and a red onion. MRJ wanted an entire bulb of garlic, but we thought this might be slightly excessive.)
When they were all nicely diced, I moved on to the roast potatoes (Maris Pipers). These little babies take a fair bit of work. They need washing, peeling, chopping, par-boiling in salted water and then roughing up a little - when you drain them in the colander, shake them a bit to give them some scruff. This'll make them lovely and crunchy later on! (You can also sifted flour over them to increase the crisp potential.) Pop them into a hot roasting tin in a preheated oven (200° or fan 180°) and make sure they're coated evenly in oil. I used rapeseed because it's got a higher boiling point than olive oil, meaning the potatoes can get really caramelised and crispy. Make sure you turn them regularly (every 15 minutes) to avoid burning, and remove when golden and crisp, scatter with salt and try not to eat them all straight away! I covered mine with tinfoil to keep them warm before serving.
While the potatoes were roasting away merrily, we worked on the ratatouille. Each type of vegetable (except garlic) has to be cooked through a bit in a frying pan before being transferred to a larger saucepan. (You can also do this in the oven but since we were doing lamb and potatoes in there we did our ratatouille on the hob!) Once they're all in the saucepan, add two tablespoons of tomato paste, a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and the chopped garlic, give it a stir and leave to cook through slowly on a gentle heat.
I love to see this many natural colours in my food. Tells me that what I'm eating is super healthy!
Next it's time to sort out the meat.
It might look a bit scary now, but just you wait. It's going to be oh so tasty...
Pour some olive oil into a large pan on the hob and turn the heat up to the maximum (we used an oven tray, but a skillet would be much better if you have one!) Once the oil is hot enough, put the rack in, fat side down, and sear. You want to hear it sizzle!
Turn it a couple of times for a few minutes. When the fat has turned golden, take the pan off the hob. Season the rack on both sides. I used Maldon sea salt, pepper and a couple of sprigs of thyme. (Thyme is of the essence!)
Pop the lamb in a preheated oven (fan 200°) and cook for 16 minutes, basting twice. You definitely don't want to cook this to oblivion, trust me - it's so much more tender this way.
Take the lamb out and leave it to rest somewhere warm. It's going to look pretty appetising at this point, but resist, because it's sauce time.
Drain the fat from the pan. Add a finely chopped shallot to the pan and cook gently over a moderate heat, adding 150ml of veal or lamb stock. Remove the sprigs of thyme, then whisk in some cold butter to finish.
Dammit, I'm hungry again...