Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

18.8.09

Two-episode dinner.

Episode One: Monday.

Baked spring lamb.

This is a simplified version of the Italian spring classic Abbacchio alla Romana which traditionally comprises all manner of things including anchovies, but all you really need are good herbs to let the superlative flavour of Australian spring lamb shine through. This is easy to assemble with no complex preparation, it cooks fast and it tastes delicious.

Take a kilogram of spring lamb pieces - six centimetre cubes - and rub into them one chopped fresh red chilli, a teaspoonful of chopped rosemary, a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and two crushed sage leaves. Place the herbed meat in a heavy baking dish. Now scatter over the meat one chopped onion, two very ripe chopped tomatoes, and three crushed cloves of garlic. Pour over two tablespoonsful of olive oil and a cup of white wine. Season lamb generously with salt and black pepper.

Add a little water, just enough to raise the fluid level; about half way up the lamb pieces. Sprinkle over the meat 50g of grated parmesan mixed with 100g of fresh breadcrumbs.

Place in a moderate oven 45 minutes or until the cooking aromas are too much to resist. Serve over a bed of polenta (my staple of the moment) with a side of zucchini steamed with butter, onion and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Our in-house jury of two (not the boys; they had eaten earlier and were asleep) gave this 8.5 (Tracy 9; Me 8).

Episode Two: Tuesday.

Easy lamb pie.

There was some baked spring lamb left over. A day later, the juices had intensified in flavour. What to do?

There is something about the aroma of baking meat encased in pastry that brings out an almost primeval appetite, a longing to eat that bears no true relationship to actual hunger. Of course, it helps if you are hungry. Then you can eat more. Does anyone remember that bizarre sporting club fund-raising function of the 1960s called the 'pie night'? There, in the kitchen of every dusty hall across the nation, stood a chrome pie warmer about the size of a small truck, the racks of which contained hundreds of Four'N Twenty (round), Herbert Adams (square) or Noon (oval, in foil) pies. No-one went hungry. The vegetarians ate cornish pasties, which had their own distinct aroma of heavily-peppered parsnip and carrot.

I digress. The leftover lamb pieces went into a pie dish and were tucked in under a layer of pastry with a neat vent in the middle, and sealed with a one-inch ring around the rim. Into the oven for 30 minutes. Seved with mashed potato, baby peas and last summer's home-made tomato chutney.

The verdict: 9 (unanimous).

The pie wins!

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