Chop chop

Rachel Roddy’s lamb cut­lets

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Rachel Roddy Rachel Roddy is a food writer based in Rome and won the Guild of Food Writ­ers food writer and cook­ery writer awards for this col­umn. Her new book, Two Kitchens (Head­line Home) is out now; @rachelal­iceroddy

It seems a nice jux­ta­po­si­tion that, as the leaves change colour and fall into crisp piles or soggy heaps, re­call­ing the re­mains of stewed tea, leafy vegetables are the most vig­or­ous shades of green. In Rome, as I’ve men­tioned be­fore, the abun­dant favourite is ci­co­ria (chicory), a cousin of dan­de­lion with for­est green, saw-edged leaves that are as bit­ter as a bad loser. There is also dark green chard with fleshy white stems, pur­ple-tinged broc­coli, and all shades of cab­bage – savoy with its crin­kled leaves be­ing par­tic­u­larly hand­some.

Green too is the new olive oil, char­treuse with a hint of flu­o­res­cence, smelling not so much of au­tumn but spring and freshly cut grass. Those for­tu­nate enough to have olive trees in the fam­ily and to be hav­ing a good year – olive trees are capri­cious – are prob­a­bly still in the process of press­ing and bot­tling now, their land hum­ming with in­dus­try, their work re­paid by the ephemeral rit­ual that is smelling and tast­ing just-pressed oil on bread or toast. The rest of us have to go and buy it from a press or shop.

Even when days or weeks old though, new-sea­son olive oil is still a grass-scented de­light, the pep­pery kick at the back of your throat caus­ing a cough. Ex­tra vir­gin olive oil is the sea­sonal in­gre­di­ent I look for­ward to most. It is our big­gest kitchen ex­pense, and the foun­da­tion and soul of pretty much ev­ery­thing we cook.

First up, a good, use­ful, very green sauce or salsa verde – the recipe for which is a bit Ro­man, a bit Fer­gus Hen­der­son and a bit my own. I have given quan­ti­ties, but only as guide­lines; as you can imag­ine, the pro­por­tions for a recipe in­clud­ing large amounts of herbs and such strong char­ac­ters as an­chovy and ca­per has to be per­sonal. You can play around, add chopped boiled eggs or lemon zest, a lit­tle mashed potato, soft bread­crumbs, or a few chopped cor­ni­chons for their pleas­ing crunch. You can make green sauce in a food pro­ces­sor, but I tend to make it with a knife, be­cause you get a pleas­ingly un­even rub­ble, some­where between a salad and a sauce. And the scent of basil, pars­ley and mint ris­ing up from the board as you chop is a sort of do­mes­tic res­cue rem­edy, which is dou­ble strength if you add new-sea­son oil, and triple if you add a medic­i­nal sherry. The quan­ti­ties below are for a jar­ful. As well as be­ing good with lamb – its sharp salti­ness both cut­ting through the fat and chap­er­on­ing the meat’s in­her­ent sweet­ness – it is a happy com­pan­ion for lots of meats and vegetables, and can be thinned into a feisty dress­ing. In short, a use­ful thing to have in the fridge.

And then, to have with the green sauce: greens. Hav­ing been boiled, they are ri­pas­sati (re-passed) or strasci­nati – dragged around a hot pan with plenty of olive oil, crushed gar­lic and red chilli un­til each strand of green is glis­ten­ing with oil and flavour. I have used chicory, but leafy and sub­stan­tial spinach works, as does cab­bage or any green you like re­ally – just ad­just cook­ing times ac­cord­ingly.

Some­one once said that my lamb cut­lets pre­pared Ro­man style (rib-thick and bashed out so they cook quickly) looked rather less than ap­peal­ing. “Car­cass” I think was the term they used. An un­der­stand­able view, es­pe­cially if you con­sider neat and plump lamb chops. I re­mem­ber clearly the first time I saw cut­lets pre­pared this way at what would be­come my lo­cal butcher here in Tes­tac­cio. See­ing the al­ready small cuts given a mighty thwack with the back of a cleaver so the bone splin­tered and meat thinned took me by sur­prise. But this is a com­mon way in Rome, for lamb that is to be cooked quickly in a pan alla scot­ta­ditto (to “burn your fin­gers”) or im­panato (in bread­crumbs) a golden coat in a hot pan, which keeps the meat even more ten­der. Whether it’s

Ro­man-style or slim chops, use the lamb you like best, de­cid­ing too if you want crumbs or not. For those of you who don’t eat lamb, grilled fish or cheese will work equally well with these two sorts of green.

Lamb with green sauce and greens

Serves 4

800g greens, such as chicory, leafy spinach or cab­bage, washed

1 gar­lic clove, peeled

1 small chilli, chopped or a pinch of red

chilli flakes

Olive or veg­etable oil, for fry­ing

8 small lamb cut­lets/chops, 1 rib thick

1 large egg, beaten (op­tional)

Dry bread­crumbs (op­tional)

For the green sauce

30g each of mint/pars­ley and basil

8 an­chovy fil­lets, drained and chopped

2 gar­lic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp ca­pers, rinsed and chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice/red wine vine­gar

Ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

1 Make the green sauce by pick­ing the herbs from their stems, then chop­ping the leaves finely. Mix ev­ery­thing in a bowl or food pro­ces­sor with the lemon juice or vine­gar and enough olive oil to make a spoon­able sauce.

2 Add the greens to boil­ing salted wa­ter for 3 min­utes, then drain thor­oughly.

3 In a large fry­ing or saute pan, warm the peeled clove of gar­lic (pressed so split but still in­tact) and the chilli in 5 tbsp olive oil un­til fra­grant. Add the greens and stir un­til glis­ten­ing with oil and flavour.

4 You can sim­ply grill/grid­dle the lambs as is, in which case rub them with oil. Al­ter­na­tively, dip each chop first in beaten egg then in dry bread­crumbs, shak­ing ex­cess crumbs back into the dish.

5 Pour enough oil into a fry­ing pan to reach a depth of 6mm. Put on the heat. Once hot, add as many chops as will fit without over­crowd­ing. As soon as a golden crust has formed on one side, turn and cook the other side. Lift the chops from pan, sprin­kle with salt and serve with the green sauce and greens.

New-sea­son olive oil is a grasss­cented de­light, the sea­sonal in­gre­di­ent I look for­ward to most

Cook’s tip Green sauce keeps well for sev­eral days: just scrape into a jar and cover the sur­face with a thin layer of olive oil to stop it dis­colour­ing, then keep it in fridge.

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