Tender spring lamb cuts are an ideal addition to leafy or couscous salads.
Tender spring lamb cuts are an ideal salad addition.
Along with the asparagus and fresh cheese featured in my October 28 column, another joy of spring is the first tender lamb. Keen to get my hands on some, I called the Redmayne family south of Whanganui, creators of the awardwinning Coastal Spring Lamb. Luckily, their earliest lambs were being sent for processing that day, so the carefully packed meat arrived in time for our photo shoot three days later.
This early lamb is tender, sweet and delicious. It must be carefully cooked so that it retains at least a pink tinge, then it must be covered and rested for 10 minutes or more before serving. Pan-frying, grilling, barbecuing over coals or gentle roasting are ideal cooking methods. Later in the season, when the flavour is more robust, the meat can be braised or slow-roasted for longer periods until thoroughly cooked, with pan juices or stock to ensure it stays moist.
This week’s recipes are perfect for delicate spring lamb.
LAMB CUTLETS WITH AVOCADO AND LEMON SALAD
12 well-trimmed spring lamb cutlets
(french-cutlet style) salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 baby cos lettuces
1 large avocado
2 tbsp parsley leaves
2 tbsp tarragon leaves
4 tbsp avocado oil
3 tbsp microgreens or herb flowers
Season the cutlets with salt and pepper.
Separate the lettuce leaves, then wash and dry carefully.
Peel the avocado, then chop or break the flesh into neat chunks,
discarding the stone.
Peel the lemons with a knife, removing all the pith, then cut the flesh into neat fillets.
Remove any stalks from the parsley and tarragon.
Prepare the salad on a platter or individual plates. Arrange the salad leaves to cover the base, then top with avocado and lemon and a scattering of herb leaves.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Cook the cutlets for about 2 minutes on one side, then turn and cook the other side. Aim for an almost crisp exterior with good colour and a pink interior. Rest the cutlets for 5 minutes before piling them on top of the salad.
To finish, place a tangle of microgreens or herb flowers over the lamb, season with a little salt, then drizzle over the remaining oil.
Wine match: pinot gris.
SPICY MARINATED BARBECUED LAMB CHOPS
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp hot sauce (I used Culley’s)
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp salt
8 mid-loin chops
200g Israeli couscous
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large tomatoes (red and yellow) assorted cherry tomatoes
½ red onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 small courgettes, cut into 5cm batons 2 cheeks preserved lemon, finely
chopped ½ cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp red or rosé wine vinegar salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine the oil, hot sauce, thyme and salt to make a marinade. Pour it over the chops, then stand for at least 15 minutes.
Cook the couscous for 8 minutes in salted boiling water. Drain well, then immediately add a tablespoon of the oil, stirring well to ensure the grains stay separated.
Prepare the tomatoes by trimming the stalks. Cut each cherry tomato in half and the larger tomatoes into quarters. Put the couscous and tomatoes aside. Dice the onion.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan, then cook the onion until soft. Add the cumin and paprika, then toss in the courgette batons and cook for 2 minutes.
Toss the couscous with the onion and courgette mixture, then add the tomatoes and preserved lemon.
Meanwhile, grill the chops over a high heat until browned, but still a little pink in the middle.
To finish, toss the parsley and vinegar into the couscous with plenty of salt and pepper to taste, then place on a serving platter, topped with the chops.
Wine match: a young pinot noir.
Lamb cutlets with avocado and lemon salad. Left, spicy marinated barbecued lamb chops.