Photo by: Jonathan Lovekin

Lamb rump with vanilla-braised chicory and sorrel pesto

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25g sprigs of rosemary, stems discarded and leaves picked
15g sprigs of thyme, stems discarded and leaves picked, plus 2 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, peeled
75ml olive oil
1kg lamb rump, fat trimmed and scored
30g unsalted butter
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped
2 large white chicory, quartered lengthways (350g)
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp coriander seeds
50ml chicken stock
50ml dry white wine
coarse sea salt and black pepper

Sorrel pesto
40g sorrel leaves
15g mint leaves
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
15g capers, rinsed
7 anchovies, excess oil removed and rinsed, if salty (20g)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 medium red chilli, de-seeded and diced
1 tbsp olive oil

The use of vanilla in a savoury dish is not something we normally go crazy for. The common pairing of prawns, salmon or lobster has never fully worked in our minds but the sweet vanilla really does make sense here, alongside the bitter chicory.

Lamb rump – also called lamb chump or chump end – is where the leg and loin meet. It’s a very tender and tasty cut of meat, usually served off the bone. The meat needs marinating overnight, so you need to start a day ahead.

If you can’t get sorrel – it’s only in season during the summer months – an alternative pesto can be made by using 20g parsley and 40g spinach instead , and blitzing these in a blender with 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp red wine vinegar and all the remaining pesto ingredients, including the mint.

Serves 4

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Method

Place the rosemary and thyme leaves and garlic in the small bowl of a food processor with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Blitz to form a rough dry paste. Rub all over the lamb and leave in the fridge to marinate overnight. Remove it from the fridge half an hour before cooking, so that the meat can return to room temperature.

Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor, with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Blend to form a smooth paste and set aside.

Place a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat and add half the butter. Once it starts to foam, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil, along with the vanilla pod and seeds. Sprinkle the cut sides of the chicory evenly with the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and place them in the pan, cut-side down. Cook for about 4 minutes, turning once halfway through, until the chicory has caramelized and turned golden-brown. Lower the heat to medium and add the thyme sprigs, coriander seeds, chicken stock, wine and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 2 minutes, until the chicory is tender: it is ready when a small knife inserted near the core goes in smoothly. Remove the chicory from the liquid (which can now be discarded) as well as the vanilla pod (the pod can be washed and dried and used to make vanilla sugar) and set aside somewhere warm until ready to serve.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7. Use your hands or some kitchen paper to wipe off and discard the marinade, then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper evenly all over the meat. Place a medium ovenproof frying pan on a medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil and, when the pan is hot, add the lamb rump. Cook for 4–5 minutes, until golden-brown, then turn over. Add the remaining 15g of butter to the pan and cook for another minute, until the butter starts to foam. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for a final 5–6 minutes, for medium-rare, longer if you want it well done. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 2–3 minutes before slicing into 1cm thick pieces.

To serve, spread a tablespoon of pesto on each plate. Lay two pieces of chicory on top and lean the lamb slices alongside. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve.

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