Much as I would like to think otherwise, I’m pretty sure I’m a peasant at heart – culinarily, at least. Just like the chicken breasts in mustard, this was another dinner when we were given a more expensive cut of meat than we would customarily buy. And, just like the chicken, the results were nice but didn’t blow our socks off. It’s the equivalent of being served caviar on toast, and secretly preferring Marmite.
We’d never cooked rack of lamb before and although we were excited to try it, it just couldn’t live up to the slow-roasted lamb shoulder. Slow roasting the shoulder is far easier to prepare and requires very little input from you. The result is gorgeously savoury and so tender that it falls into damp shreds at the touch of a fork. Intensely flavourful and utterly reliable, I’m salivating at the thought of it – and although we repeated it just a couple of weeks ago, I can’t wait to make it again.
But this was a much more high-maintenance dish. Although it cooked more quickly, it demanded much more care and attention, was entirely unforgiving when it came to timings, and still ended up fatty and difficult to carve from the bone. I know that rack is considered far fancier than shoulder – if only because of those little white hats you can buy to cover up the bones – but I just prefer the slow-cooked succulent meat, and nothing will convince me otherwise.
This particular recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals and although it was slightly fussy (prepare it, brown it, turn it, daub it, roast it, rest it, carve it), the meat did turn out perfectly pink. We also made his suggested red wine gravy, studded with nuggets of crisp bacon. I won’t deny that the colour was offputting – red wine + flour = lurid magenta – but the flavour was great, I promise.
We skipped his recommended spring veg, going for some much more seasonal options. In fact, as you can see by our ludicrously overstuffed plates, we had parsnip and carrot mash, roasted celeriac, kale, peas and broccoli, not to mention the roasted tomatoes from the lamb. And those vegetables, swimming in gravy, were still one of my favourite bits from the meal. What can I say? I’m a peasant at heart. At least I haven’t done a Baldrick and just cooked turnip.
Garlic and Mustard Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Gravy
From Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals
- An 8 bone rack of lamb
- a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (he suggests rosemary, but we only had thyme)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- a splash of white wine vinegar (we only had red wine)
- a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
- a few rashers of bacon, finely chopped
- another sprig of rosemary or thyme
- a heaped tablespoon of plain flour
- half a glass of red wine
Preheat the oven to 220C and get a big frying pan on the heat with a drizzle of olive oil in it. Get out a baking tray or roasting tin and line with a bit of parchment paper.
Cut the rack of lamb in half and season it all over with salt and pepper, then add to the frying pan. Turn it every few minutes until it's browned all over - about 10 minutes in total, I think.
While it's cooking, crush or finely chop the garlic and rosemary/thyme and mix up in a little bowl with the mustard, splash of wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. You're aiming for a paste, but I didn't have a garlic crusher or a pestle and mortar so mine was more of a lumpy sauce.
When the lamb is browned, take it out of the pan and put it onto the roasting tin or baking sheet. Daub the garlicky mustardy glop all over it, and scatter the tomatoes in and around, rolling them in any fallen drips of sauce. Put the whole lot in the oven for 14 minutes if you want your lamb slightly pink in the middle but not too rare - obviously, cook it for longer or shorter times if you like it more or less cooked.
While it's in the oven, pour away most of the lamb fat from the frying pan and then add the bacon over a low heat. Once the bacon is golden and sizzling, turn the heat up and add the herb and flour, stirring well. Then chuck in the wine, stir until it's mostly evaporated, then add a few ladles of cooking water from any vegetables you're doing at the same time (we had plenty). If you're not cooking any veg, just use water from the kettle.
The gravy will turn an alarming shade of pink but even though it looks really unlikely, I promise that it tastes really nice. Have faith!
Keep the gravy bubbling gently until it's the sort of consistency you want, while you wait for the lamb. Once the lamb has had its full time, give it a couple of minutes to rest, then carve and serve with the gravy and veg. Enjoy!