I am lucky enough to have a friend who used to be a chef at The Ivy restaurant in London so when he cooks Sunday dinner
you know you're really in for a treat. I supply the wine and everyone is perfectly happy. But then comes the inevitable day when I have to return the favour.
A sort of cold, clammy feeling comes over me as I realise my 'let's see what's in the fridge' attitude is fine when cooking
for me but may not cut it with my friend's high standards. I am also terrible at following recipes, you may have worked that out from previous posts, and tend to cobble together ingredients and rely on my palate and instincts to produce something edible.
So, as you can imagine, my friend did not have high hopes for dinner, luckily there is a pizza take away around the corner so we knew we wouldn't starve, but I am pleased to say he was very impressed by my concoction. The main element of this dish, the lamb leg steaks
, is actually the easiest and quickest bit to cook, the accompaniments took longer. I chose, not as the image suggests, to add to my dish, Dauphinoise potatoes
, caramelised carrots
and sticky shallots
in a red wine sauce
What I did, was this........
Lamb leg steaks, one per person
8 decent sized potatoes
1/2 pint of double cream
Bag of shallots
Parmesan or other hard cheese
Knob of butter
First thing to do is to start your potatoes. Peel and slice them finely, the finer you slice them the quicker it will cook. Slice the leek into rounds and add, along with the potatoes, to a large pan. Season, pour over the cream, mix well together so everything is coated in cream and leave on a low heat until simmering, stirring frequently. Cook until the potatoes start to get soft then transfer into a buttered oven proof dish. I poured half my potatoes in, seasoned and added a thin layer of grated cheese, then repeated with the remaining potatoes, finishing with another layer of grated cheese. Put this into the middle of a pre-heated oven for about an hour on a low heat until the potatoes are soft throughout. After about half an hour my cheese looked lovely and brown so I covered the top with foil and returned to the bottom of the oven.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking, peel and quarter the shallots, leaving a bit of the root on so they stay together. Place them in a pan of boiling water for about 3 minutes then drain and leave aside.
Peel the carrots and slice into battons. Put them into a plastic food bag with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and massage until everything is coated in oil and seasoning. Transfer into an oven proof dish and place in the middle of the oven for around 30 minutes or until starting to char.
Now, the lamb. I asked my butcher to remove the bone from the leg and slice it into steaks so all I had to do was oil and season the meat. Rub the steaks with olive oil and use salt and pepper to taste. Place the lamb steaks into a hot pan so they sizzle and do not turn until they 'unstick' themselves from the bottom of the pan. You're caramelising the meat and getting a lovely brown colour and what's left in the pan is full of flavour. Cook for 3-4 minutes on both sides but use your own judgement depending on how pink you like your lamb. Remember it will continue to cook once it's out of the pan so remove it when it's still a bit pink. Once cooked place the steaks on a plate to rest and cover with foil.
Place the pan back on the heat and de-glaze with balsamic vinegar and red wine. Amounts will depend on how many you're cooking for but I used about 100ml of balsamic vinegar and around 300ml of red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the yummy sticky bits and reduce until rich thick. Add the shallots to the sauce to warm through and pour in the juices from the rested lamb. Taste and season as necessary and if you wish, why wouldn't you, add a knob or two of butter to really make the sauce glossy and smooth.
Now all you have to do is serve and enjoy. The lamb is tender and melts in the mouth, the shallots are a little sweet and earthy and are balanced by the sauce which has a sharpness from the vinegar. The potatoes are creamy and rich, the ultimate comfort food and the carrots are just so tasty thanks to their own sugars. I was very proud of myself and actually received no criticism from my friend, a true compliment indeed. I feel I passed the test.
So the wine to have with it. There are two wines I would suggest depending on how 'big' you like your wine.
This Merlot dominant wine is a prefect match to lamb. It is from the same area as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol but as it doesn't fall under the same classification it is considerably less pricey. It has a fresh plum and cherry fruit character that works with the sauce and shallots perfectly. The texture is smooth with enough tannin to be a bit grippy but not drying. It is made by a family who have been hand-crafting wine at this winery since 1610 and the pedigree certainly shines through, it is an absolute delight.
If you fancy your wine a bit bigger then this second option will be right for you. The wine is 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache, a typical blend for the region. It is voluptuous and juicy in the mouth, red and black fruits dominate and you can almost taste the glorious southern French sunshine. It has herby notes thanks to 'La Garrigue', the wild scrub of the area made up of thyme, sage, lavender and other herbs. Overall it's a dense, firm wine that works really well with lamb and the mix of flavours on the plate.
So, have a go for yourself and let us know the results.