Getting to the heart of the matter, Simon Hopkinson shares the recipe for his preferred ‘last dish’: perfectly pink lamb
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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Absolutely to die for: nothing can beat the delightfully rich taste of lamb cutlets, especially when rare and well-rested