On the Amalfi Coast in summer, we try to avoid turning on the stove at all, but in colder weather, oven roasting not only sends delicious scents through the house but is a good way of keeping the kitchen warm and cosy.
For Gennaro Russo, executive chef of Le Sirenuse’s La Sponda restaurant, this late autumn main-course dish shows that complex blends of fall flavours can be achieved with relatively few ingredients and the simplest of cooking techniques. The only challenge is finding really good cuts of quality meat – organic for preference – from a reputable butcher. Once that’s sorted, the rest is plain sailing.
ROAST RACK OF LAMB WITH PUMPKIN AND POTATOES
Ingredients for 4 people
- 2 Frenched (French-cut) racks of lamb
- 2 lamb fillets
- 500g firm potatoes – peeled weight
- 500g pumpkin – peeled weight
- A generous handful of fresh chopped rosemary
- 8 or so sage leaves, roughly chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 cloves of garlic, 2 finely chopped, the other 2 peeled and left whole
- Olive oil and salt to taste
Begin the day before by slicing the fillets into large chunks, allowing a couple for each serving (see top photo for guidance), then sprinkling the racks and fillets of lamb with the chopped garlic and half the chopped sage and rosemary before drizzling with olive oil. Place them in a ziplock or freezer bag and leave in the fridge overnight. If you’re in a hurry you can shorten this stage, but four hours is pretty much the minimum time needed for the marinade to properly flavour the meat.
A couple of hours before you’re ready to cook, cut the potatoes into your preferred shapes (Gennaro likes to do them in thin wedges) and leave them to soak and release some of their starch in a bowl of cold water, then drain and dry.
Set your oven to 220°C (a little less if you have a fan oven). Then cut up the pumpkin. Gennaro does these in thick carrot-like cylinders, but again, the shape is up to you. Slug some olive oil into three frying pans and heat on a lively flame. Put the two peeled garlic cloves in one, then toss in the potatoes and pumpkin. Place the two racks of lamb in the second, and the lamb fillets in the third. Fry the vegetables and meat for a few minutes until lightly brown, making sure to turn the lamb racks so that they are done on all their meaty sides and ends.
Put the potatoes and pumpkins in a baking tray, drizzle on any oil left in the pans and sprinkle with the remaining sage and rosemary, then place in the oven. Put the two lamb racks in a baking tray with their bones interlinked and surround them with the lamb fillet pieces. When you put these in the oven will depend on how the vegetable roast is proceeding and also on how well-cooked you like your meat – allow 10 minutes roasting for rare and 25 minutes for well-done. The most reliable way of checking is to use a meat thermometer.
Wait for a few minutes before carving each rack into four cutlets, each with one bone. Serve two of these on each plate surrounded by the fillet pieces and the vegetables, pour on the juices and herbs from the baking tray, sprinkle with a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and serve.
Photos © Roberto Salomone
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