What I love most about Easter is the fact that I can gather all my family for an indulgent meal without going through the frenzy one experiences at Christmas. Easter, with its promise of better weather, manages to inspire a sense of celebration sprinkled with spring flowers. The giving and receiving of chocolate eggs lends a simplicity to the day leaving everyone relaxed and appreciative of each others company. This is surely worth celebrating, even for the most sceptical non-believers.
Lamb is traditionally served at Easter because of its symbolic relation to the Easter story, but also coincides with the natural breeding cycle of sheep producing spring lamb during the Easter period. We are more fortunate than many parts of Britain, except of course Wales, to have such excellent lamb reared here in Sussex! South Downs lamb has a sweet, succulent flavour, very similar to that of Welsh lamb. Here is a recipe from one of my traditional Easter menu’s that is not only a joy to make but also a luxury to eat.
Rosemary & Dijon Rack of Lamb with Aubergine Relish
2 medium-size best ends of lamb, eight chops per piece and Frenched (ie. the rib ends cleaned and trimmed)
1 large stalk of rosemary
2 tsp Dijon mustard
light olive oil for searing the lamb.
For the Relish:
2 large aubergines, diced large and salted
4 medium red onions
4 red peppers, diced small
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp light olive oil
250ml red wine vinegar
400g granulated sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped mint
To prepare the lamb, rub a tsp of mustard into the fat side of each best end and coat the whole area evenly. Press the chopped rosemary into the mustard and place the meat in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.
Now to make the relish: Peel and chop the onions into large dice. Fry the onion with the ginger and garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil until the onion turns transparent. Add the diced pepper and cook for two minutes. Now add the vinegar, sugar and paprika and cook until the mixture becomes caramelised. Put the aubergine pieces in a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the juices, using a firm grip. Fry them in the remaining oil until evenly browned all over. Mix the aubergine in with the onion mixture, season and stir well. Leave to cool. When cool, stir in the chopped mint.
Preheat the oven to 220C, 425F. Place the lamb in a roasting tin and roast for 10-20 minutes, depending on hoe you like your lamb. Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest fr five minutes. Put a spoonful of the aubergine relish on each plate and cut each rack of lamb in half, sit each piece on top of the relish and serve with homemade mint jelly.
Enjoy and Happy Easter!