with Stewed Beans and Baked Zucchini
The first thing you need to do is buy a great rack of lamb. You just can’t get past the fact that something as simple as this has to be of good quality. So what should you look for? The first thing is a good colour; dull red, not grey is what we aim for. Then of course we need a good amount of meat. There is no point to a rack that is almost entirely fat, with just a 50 cent coin sized heart of meat. And here’s the problem,, because the bigger the meaty heart, the more expensive the rack. Unfortunately you can also buy an expensive rack with a miserable heart. Just remember:
No matter how big the rack, if there’s no heart to it, it won’t give you much pleasure…
- one nice rack of lamb. at least 6 ribs, but more if you like
- English (curly) parsley, one handful for every 4 ribs
- garlic (3 cloves for every 4 ribs)
- olive oil (however much you need)
- salt & black pepper
Salt and pepper your rack generously all around, then rub it with a little (or a lot) of olive oil. Don’t use your best virgin one, because the taste will be lost in the searing. Heat a good amount of oil in a pan big enough to hold your lamb. I use a big oval cast iron pan. The one you can see on the picture. When the oil is smoking hot, pit your rack meat side down and sear. I recommend doing this without letting the lamb come to room temperature first. It gives you more leeway later in the oven. If the rack is warm when you do this, you may get a lamb more done than is good for it. You will have to maneuver the piece around a bit to get an even colour.
A word of warning; When we did this in our little flat, a ladder appeared at our balcony and the firefighters wanted to break in the window to rescue us. In short, it’s a smokey business.
Once done, remove the lamb from the hot pan and let it rest uncovered on a chopping board to cool it down pretty much completely. While it is doing it’s cooling down, take two big handful of English parsley (I find the Italian one too insipid for this dish. In fact I find it too insipid for more or less anything other than salads) and a fat head of garlic. Peel, crush, chop the garlic roughly, then chop the parsley roughly too, mix both together and keep chopping to get a medium fine mix. Too fine and it will burn, too rough and it will not sick much.
Roasting time! Heat your oven as high as it will go and when it thinks it is at temperature, leave it alone for half an hour to really heat the thing to the max. Rub the seared rack with more olive oil and press your parsley garlic mix into it. Some will fall off, but don’t let that worry you. Gently place the lamb on a roasting pan or baking tray and shove it into the oven. Resist the temptation to open the oven door for at least 20 minutes. Which is about the time it should take to get your lamb done to a nice medium. Remove it from the oven and then; and this is the IMPORTANT part; leave it to rest for 10-15 minutes. If you do not do this, your lamb will be raw in the middle and not like the beautiful one shown HERE!
Our lamb is sitting on a bed of stewed beans, as you can see. Here’s how you do those. I hope that you have read this post all the way through before you started cooking, otherwise you’re in big trouble.
Stewed Beans with Pancetta
This will be more than enough for 2 hungry people. You will have leftovers, but I will tell you what to do with them, don’t worry. I made this with beans I found in the back of the cupboard, so I’m guessing they were about 10 years old. I can now tell you that that was not such a good idea. It took me 3 and a half hours to stew the stones into recognisable beans. A good, fresh dry bean should take no more than one and a half hours.
- 200g white haricot beans or similar
- 1 carrot
- 1 leek
- 1 onion
- 1 celery branch
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 slice of pancetta, about 1cm thick
- 1 litre water
- 250ml strong stock
- 2 bay leaf
- oil for frying
Note: If you are vegetarian, or want to forego the pork, replace the pancetta with shiitake mushrooms, or air-dried beef, or just leave it out and add 2 more cloves of garlic and start by chopping them roughly and frying them golden brown before you add the vegetables (see a bit later in the recipe).
Soak your beans in plenty of water for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight. Drain the water and put the beans into a pot. Cover with 1 litre water, add a bay leaf and bring to a simmer. DO NOT ADD SALT. Cover the pot and forget about it for an hour. Check and if necessary add some boiling water. your beans should always be completely covered with water. Once your beans are at a nice, creamy soft texture, take them of the heat and drain.
Following the picture above, cut all your vegetables into medium dice. Slice the pancetta into 1cm batonnets (that’s sticks). Heat the oil in a cast iron pot (if you have one) and fry the pancetta lightly. Add all the vegetables, except the leeks (they burn easily) and stir about for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to brown them. Add the leek, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary (fresh or dried) and fry for another minute. Add the beans and enough stock to cover and bring to a simmer. Adjust seasoning and cook for about 10 minutes.
What you are aiming for is a lightly moistened bean and vegetable mix, with the sauce slightly thickened by the starch of the beans. Once you get that, you can turn the heat off, cover the pot and leave it until you need it. It will happily wait an hour or more and can be reheated on a low fire without damage.
The Baked Zucchini
This dish is super easy to make, you can assemble it all in advance and then stick it in the oven and in 10-15 minutes, it’ll be ready.
I have this gorgeous little copper pan we acquired on a trip to the southwest of France. We came across a Brocante (flea market sounds much more glamorous in French) in an old hospital with an incredibly imposing defunct chapel where the traders sold a variety of wares, seemingly oblivious to the magical surroundings they were in. So I picked up this whole “batterie de cuisine” pretty much for a song. At first we thought, cynics that we are, it might be some cheap China copy and the trader would just whip out another one and have a good laugh to himself, but it has performed extremely well, so I guess it’s real after all. Or just a real good copy.
- 2 medium zucchini (more if your pan is big)
- a handful of parsley
- 4 garlic cloves
- a big handful of good quality breadcrumbs (no panko!!)
- olive oil
Now you just need to follow the instructions in the slide show and Bob’s your uncle! Bake at 180C on a that shelf just above the middle until it’s as brown as you want it.
As promised, here’s what to do with the leftovers. Check out the “Leftover Goodness” category for more ideas (give me some time, alright!)