The blog has been a bit neglected since the arrival of Jonathan and Lyndsey’s baby nearly 4 weeks ago. A lot of cooking has been going on, providing food being one good way to help the new family, but I’ve tended to rely on old favourites and dishes that will wait a while rather than any that need instant eating, as new babies tend not to run to time but have their own plan for the day. With things settling down, I’m back to cooking mainly just for myself and for tonight, I decided to take two rack of lamb cutlets from my freezer that had been there for a few weeks and I thought I should use. I don’t like to leave fresh meat in the freezer for too long, even though my freezer is a pretty good one that can probably keep anything in a good state for months. In M&S Simply Food, just down the road in Twickenham high street, I spied a gorgeous, large and healthy looking fennel and couldn’t resist buying that to cook too.
I love fennel. I love its strong aniseed taste. Of course, it’s a bit like Marmite – you love it or hate it. But then, I like Marmite too! There’s something wonderfully fresh tasting about fennel and I often slice it into salads. But I’ve also often parboiled it in segments, drained it and then laid the segments in a gratin dish, covered in a mix of fresh breadcrumbs and lots of grated Parmesan, dotted it with plenty of butter, and baked in the oven till browned. So simple but very delicious. Today I decided to go the Dauphinoise route, normally a method for potatoes but of course lots of other vegetables love being enfolded in a garlicky cream mixture, topped with cheese and baked. In Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets I found a Dauphinoise recipe for turnips. First of all, I sliced the fennel fairly thinly and then laid the slices in a small ovenproof dish.
I brought a small pot of single cream (170ml) to a simmer, with a clove of garlic in it and some seasoning of salt and pepper.
Once it reached a simmer, I turned off the heat and let it infuse for a few minutes. Then I poured it over the sliced fennel, through a strainer so the garlic didn’t go in. I grated some Gruyere cheese (or use Parmesan) and scattered some over the top.
I put it in a 200C/180 Fan oven for about 20-30 minutes – until the top was nicely brown and the fennel tender when tested with a sharp knife.
Meanwhile, I’d marinated the lamb cutlets for a while. I coated them in a generous amount of olive oil then shaken over some sumac, salt and freshly ground black pepper. I love that citrusy, sweet and sour flavour of sumac and it goes beautifully with lamb.
When my fennel was nearly ready, I heated a griddle. When it was hot, I put the lamb cutlets on and browned well both sides. I wanted them nice and brown and slightly crisp on the outside, beautifully pink and juicy inside – and that’s exactly how they turned out!
I let them rest for a couple of minutes and then served up: the cutlets, fennel and a salad of rocket leaves and tomato, dressed in olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.
It was a gorgeous supper, and quite simple. The lamb was so juicy and tender and the sumac added a lovely exotic taste. The rich and creamy fennel was a wonderful accompaniment; the aniseed still strong but softened with the cream and cheese. The rocket and tomato salad added a fresh, complementary taste. A very good start to the weekend!