It’s too hot to cook. I’m looking longingly at pictures of summer kitchens from the US and wishing I had one. Next best thing is to get up stupidly early to take advantage of the cooler mornings. I’ve invited my sister and her family for lunch, so my cunning plan is to get as much of the prep done in advance so I can spend Sunday morning wafting round the garden picking flowers and setting a table rather than slaving over a hot stove. So with that in mind I’ve planned a slow roast lamb, to be done overnight in a cool oven, accompanied by a selection of salads. Strawberry jelly and home made ice-cream for pud.
Trawling round Sainsbury’s – it’s air conditioned, don’t judge me – I found a pack of Albert Bartlett’s Purple Majesty potatoes. Potato salad beckons. Off to the butchers for the lamb – a lovely Welsh lamb shoulder that will feed us and leave plenty of leftovers. I do love leftovers. Super satisfying to make more than one meal from an ingredient.
Home to prep. I’m making my grandmother’s potato salad – a Hungarian recipe that uses a vinaigrette dressing with sour cream. First boil the potatoes whole, until knife tender. Drain and rinse quickly under cold water, then remove the skins. It’s a bit of a faff, but the flavour is so much better. Thickly slice the potatoes and toss, while still warm in the dressing. This is made with a tablespoon of smooth dijon mustard, mixed with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk well and then add 150ml of sour cream. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit – it should be sweet/ sour & creamy. Add chopped parsley, and half a red onion, chopped finely. Mix well with the potatoes and set aside to cool.
Onto the next item – strawberry jelly. I’ve totally cheated and used a jelly packet, but I added masses of local strawberries. I have in my possession a gloriously retro piece of tupperware – a jelly mould with interchangeable lids to create patterns. This was the final result – fab isn’t it?! I served it with homemade strawberry ice cream.
Onto the lamb. It’s still super hot here, hitting 30C by lunch so I’m cooking the lamb overnight using Nigella Lawson’s recipe from Nigella Bites. Super simple, and super delicious. Get a heavy based roasting tin and heat it on the hob. Put the lamb shoulder, fat side down and let it brown – about 5 minutes. Remove lamb and add 6 cloves of garlic, peeled; 6 shallots, halved; and 2 carrots, halved. Cook for 5 minutes on a high heat, then put lamb back, meat side down this time. Season with salt and pepper. Add 500ml of boiling water and bring to a simmer. Cover loosely with foil and put in a slow oven – 140C (120C fan/ GM1) as you go to bed. In the morning, the lamb will be beautifully tender and as an added bonus, there will be an amazing lamb stock to put aside for another day. Remove lamb from roasting tin – and place on a plate and shred with two forks. At this point, you can recover with foil and leave in the still warm oven. It’s a dish that benefits from being served warm, so that the fat remains juicy and not solidifying. When ready to serve, arrange a plate with baby spinach/ watercress/ green leaf of your choice; pile on the shredded meat and then add a handful of torn fresh mint leaves and the juice and seeds from a pomegranate. Easiest way to deal with the pomegranate is to halve it, then hold it over the meat and bash the back of it with a spoon. The seeds will rain down, leaving the pith behind.
To add to the rainbow lunch I seemed to be creating, I made a shredded carrot salad – using a recipe I was given in the Ivory Coast. It’s very simple. Crush a clove of garlic into a paste with a pinch of coarse salt. Add the zest and juice of a lemon, and olive oil to form a dressing. Grate 6 carrots, season with salt and pepper and toss with the dressing. Add chopped mint and set aside for an hour before serving to let the flavours develop.
Lunch is served!!