Chop, chop

Get­ting to the heart of the mat­ter, Si­mon Hop­kin­son shares the recipe for his pre­ferred ‘last dish’: per­fectly pink lamb

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Si­mon Hop­kin­son

Si­mon Hop­kin­son shares the recipe for his pre­ferred ‘last dish’: per­fect pink lamb

THE late Lord Lu­can is be­lieved to have en­joyed —or en­dured—a some­what re­stricted ap­pre­ci­a­tion of gas­tron­omy for most of his adult life with lun­cheon. Dur­ing the win­ter months, a trio of grilled lamb cut­lets. Come the sum­mer, the same en gelée.

One knows not whether there were some creamed pota­toes and mint sauce to ac­com­pany the former or, for the lat­ter, pos­si­bly a gar­ni­ture com­pris­ing a sim­ple let­tuce salad, du­bi­ously dressed with malt vine­gar and veg­etable oil. Any olive oil in use at the time may pos­si­bly have been pre­ferred as a slick to that shined bonce, but who will ever know?

When hav­ing been asked oc­ca­sion­ally as part of a ques­tion­naire what my ‘last dish’ would be, the grilled lamb cut­let has en­thu­si­as­ti­cally been voiced by yours truly as much as any other de­light. How­ever, although I of­ten favour a bur­nished cut­let, I would be hard pushed to say as to whether I might pre­fer one neatly sliced from a roast best end of lamb, so de­liv­er­ing a per­fectly pink cut­let from this neat­est and, dare I say, dinky joint.

Most cer­tainly, when that joint is left to be­come cold, it is from this that I would hap­pily be­gin to con­struct a dish of ‘cut­lets in jelly’—but, sadly, not just now, as the jelly in­struc­tion alone could well take up my en­tire al­lot­ted word count.

Mar­i­nated and grilled lamb hearts Serves 4

It’s now 40 years since I first dined at the leg­endary Mccoy’s restau­rant, The Cleve­land Ton­tine, bang on the long A19 trunk road half­way be­tween York and New­cas­tle. Although it was a dark and pos­si­bly stormy night when the hand­some stone house even­tu­ally came into view in the car’s head­lights, I im­me­di­ately knew I would do well there.

Per­haps there was an in­ner warmth that seeped out into the icy York­shire air, but, to be hon­est, it was ac­tu­ally more the faint tones of Bessie Smith to­gether with a glimpse of sev­eral open para­sols dec­o­rat­ing the ceil­ing of a busy din­ing room through the win­dow panes that fully speeded up my stride to the front door.

It was Eu­gene Mccoy who greeted us, soon to be dis­cov­ered as one of three brothers in­volved in the run­ning of the Ton­tine. In 1977—for that is when it was—his pres­ence sim­ply bowled over this im­pres­sion­able, 23-year-old cook: his longish and shaggy dark hair, pale-blue-framed spec­ta­cles, easy swag­ger and, if I might say, se­duc­tive voice that fluc­tu­ated some­where be­tween Rus­sell Harty and a broad-speak­ing Whitby fish­mon­ger.

I was all at once be­sot­ted by this ca­sual show­man, so hon­estly happy with his role, so deftly pro­fes­sional and, from that in­stantly sem­i­nal mo­ment to this mem­oir to­day, we have re­mained chums.

The very par­tic­u­lar dish that even­ing was ‘Lamb Tjit­ska— grilled cut­lets with Ja­vanese over­tones’, to quote ex­actly from the flam­boy­antly scripted menu. ‘And you must have the salad in­cred­i­ble, too,’ droned Eu­gene em­phat­i­cally. Mixed metaphors, per­haps, but that was the charm of a man who could, if pushed, qui­etly of­fer me a very nice prawn cock­tail from a Bar Mitz­vah buf­fet— truly a rare restau­ra­teur of the old school.

Should you wish to ex­pe­ri­ence his more re­cent en­ter­prise, drop in at The Crathorne Arms (www.the­crathorn­earms.co.uk; 01642 961402), sev­eral miles north of the old place. If not now bang on the A19 trunk road, it is a place to note down. Worth the de­tour? It’s en­tirely worth a jour­ney in it­self.

In­ci­den­tally, Eu­gene is now as keen as am I that us­ing lamb hearts takes the dish in an en­tirely new di­rec­tion—lan­cashire, per­haps.

In­gre­di­ents

For the mari­nade

150ml light soy sauce 50ml sesame oil 2 peeled and crushed cloves of gar­lic Half an onion, peeled and chopped Large knob peeled and sliced

fresh ginger Juice of 1 or­ange Juice of 1 lemon 1tb­spn mus­co­v­ado sugar 1tspn ground co­rian­der 1tspn ground cumin 1tspn ground turmeric Half a tea­spoon cayenne pep­per Half a tea­spoon pa­prika

6 lamb hearts, halved length­ways, with the top, thicker parts of the ven­tri­cles well trimmed

Method

Put all the in­gre­di­ents for the mari­nade in a food pro­ces­sor and whizz un­til smooth. Pour through a sieve sus­pended over a large Tup­per­ware con­tainer and, us­ing a la­dle, force the liq­uid through it, dis­card­ing the re­sul­tant pulp. Im­merse the hearts within the mari­nade, clip on the lid and re­frig­er­ate overnight.

Ei­ther fuel a bar­be­cue or heat a ribbed, stove-top grill. Drain the hearts through a colan­der and then lightly pat them dry with kitchen pa­per, dis­card­ing the mari­nade. Grill the hearts for about 2 min­utes on each side, then trans­fer to a warmed dish.

Leave to rest for a few min­utes be­fore serv­ing with a sprightly, Ori­en­tally in­spired salad: crisp leaves, cu­cum­ber, spring onions, mint, mild green chill­ies, co­rian­der, lime juice and a lit­tle fish sauce. The leeched juices from the hearts mixed with this make a glo­ri­ous com­bi­na­tion.

Roast best end of lamb with stewed pep­pers Serves 2–3

I em­phat­i­cally ad­vise that the lamb in the fol­low­ing recipe should be kept very pink and, al­most more im­por­tantly, served at room tem­per­a­ture.

In­gre­di­ents

2–3tb­spn olive oil 1 large sliced onion 2 thinly sliced cloves gar­lic 2 large de-seeded, trimmed and sliced pep­pers (yel­low and red) 1 best end of lamb, French-trimmed A large hand­ful of torn-up basil

leaves

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/ gas mark 6. In a sturdy pot, qui­etly stew the onion and gar­lic in the olive oil, al­low­ing them to wilt and soften be­fore ad­ding the pep­pers. Sea­son well, cover and leave to stew for about 30 min­utes, stir- ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til all is a glis­ten­ing, unc­tu­ous mass and slightly bur­nished. Put to one side.

Smear the best end of lamb with a lit­tle oil and sea­son gen­er­ously, par­tic­u­larly on the fat. Place in a small roast­ing tin, fat side down, and roast in the oven for about 25 min­utes, bast­ing oc­ca­sion­ally and also turn­ing the joint around so that it sits bones up­per­most for the fi­nal 10 min­utes. Tip out all traces of fat from the tin and leave the lamb to rest some­where warm, such as on top of the stove, un­til ready to carve.

To serve, carve the lamb into cut­lets and ar­range on a hand­some serv­ing dish, spoon­ing over any seeped juices from the rested meat. Stir the basil through the stewed pep­pers and pile upon the dish along­side the lamb. For me, this is an as­sem­bly that needs no other ac­com­pa­ni­ment than a chilled bot­tle of rosé de Provence.

Fol­low @Si­mon­hop­kin­son on Twit­ter

Ab­so­lutely to die for: noth­ing can beat the de­light­fully rich taste of lamb cut­lets, es­pe­cially when rare and well-rested

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