Monday, March 12, 2007

Lamb and Beetroot

Sat 10 Mar 2007

The latest Australian Gourmet Traveller has arrived so a great flurry of cooking has taken place. The cover features a stunning lemon meringue pie and while Andy would probably have been more than happy to have that emerge from the oven I opted for more savoury dishes.

First off the ranks was chargrilled lamb served with beetroot tzatziki, which came from the article about Melbourne chef George Calombaris. Although this was quite a fiddly dish, with lots of kitchen kit involved, it is a perfect prepare ahead dish, so don't be overwhelmed by what follows!

The recipe called for lamb neck, which we couldn't find in the market, so we used lamb steaks.

Firstly, get started on the beetroot tzatziki. For the two of us we used two small-ish beetroot. I cleaned and topped and tailed the beets, before wrapping each one loosely in tin foil and roasting in an oven preheated to 180C. Depending on size they will need about an hour of roasting. When they're tender, remove from the oven, allow them to cool slightly, and then dice. The recipe in AGT says to cut them into 7mm cubes. If, like me, you think that's vaguely ridiculous (after all, how precise do you have to be?), chop it into whatever size pieces of beet you'd like!

While the beetroot is cooking, heat some oil in a casserole and when it's hot sear the lamb until golden brown. Because of space constraints, I did our lamb steaks two at a time, and then removed them to a plate, before adding in one onion coarsely chopped, 2 cloves of sliced garlic and 3 shallots, also coarsely chopped. Once these were all soft I returned the lamb to the pot, and added 100gm of Greek yogurt (original recipe called for natural), a good hearty splash of white wine, a squeeze of honey, a good sprinkling of oregano, the grated rind of half a lemon and a splash of olive oil. Mix this all together, cover the casserole and put it in the oven at 160C. Because my beetroots were still roasting at 180C I made do with that!

The lamb needs to cook for a good hour plus (1 1/2 hours, or until tender). This means you get to put your feet up. I took the opportunity to sample the wine I'd used in the lamb: a Louis Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres 2005 (£7.99). Back in January I'd really enjoyed a different Macon-Lugny so I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately I was more than a little disappointed. The wine had no clearly definable nose and while it had a bit of butter in the mouth it was also quite high in acid. There was no great complexity or length in the wine and it was totally dominated by the acid.

Wine disappointment over, it was time to put together the tzatziki. This was very simple: once the beetroot are cooked and diced I sprinkled over a little extra virgin olive oil, added about 100 g of Greek yogurt, the grated rind of half a lemon, a shallot finely chopped, a clove of garlic finely chopped and a few sprigs of dill ... also finely chopped. Mix it all together and taste. Be careful with the garlic as raw garlic can be so hot that you don't want to over do it.

At about this point the lamb had finished cooking, so I heated the griddle pan and each of the lamb steaks got a good, final searing before being sliced. I was going to bother with neither of these steps - but Andy insisted and the searing at least was a brilliant finishing touch, adding a bit of extra char-caramel goodness.

The recipe suggests you should remove the solids from the cooking juices before mixing in a shaved bulb of fennel. That sounded like hard work to me, so I set Andy to grating the fennel and we just mixed it in to what was left in the casserole. It worked perfectly.

The lamb was served on top of the beetroot tzatziki, topped with the fennel mix and a couple of sprigs of dill. It was absolutely delicious!

For our meal, we put aside the chardonnay and opened a bottle of Chateau Peymouton St Emilion Grand Cru 2003 (70% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon). Since Andy bought this at Frankfurt Airport I don't even know if it's available in the UK. Again, a very soft nose (I'm starting to wonder if I was smelling properly on Saturday night!) with the slightest hint of tobacco. We didn't decant the wine which I think might have been a mistake, as the nose definitely opened up and became more leathery with time.

It was a very dry wine and very very spicy and it went perfectly with the rich lamb and tzatziki - although it wasn't such a flash pairing if you happened upon a piece of the hot garlic! It was a
really lovely wine, and after the disappointment of the Macon-Lugny we were very happy (not to mention somewhat relieved)!

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