Sometimes I miss those restaurant days of looking through a service window and watching someone grappling with the choices on a menu, trying to decide if they want to go with a firm favorite or leap into the unknown with a new choice.
In trade school we obsessed over the name of a new dish, on a menu that name has to grab the diners attention and inspire their taste buds to have to have it.
For me the name of the dish should always reflect the hero. By hero I mean the best part of it. In this case I just couldn't decide which element was the signature piece.
Lately my cooking involves throwing something quick together for me and the Husband (if he isn't home and I have to cook) or something sweet to share with my minions at work.
So for my birthday I chose to stay home and cook a meal worthy of al a carte for the three of us. (Family get together was the next night).
One a vegetarian, one with allergies and me.
That's where the drama started. I couldn't get the cut of lamb I wanted. I wanted a lamb backstrap. Two butchers later none to be had. Perhaps a rack of lamb. No luck there. I settled for a topside of lamb. It came in a vacuum pack bag and I was assure by the butcher it was a whole piece suitable to roast. It wasn't - it was a piece big enough for the two carnivores and a big handful of chopped up bits and it was beef. It wasn't stuck together with the chemical glue we hear about in the news so often but I wasn't impressed. By the time I opened the bag it was too late to take it back.
Still it was delicious I just think the lamb backstraps would have been better and that's why I left the title as with Lamb.
35cm x 13 cm x 2 cm flan tin
Tray suitable to roast the meat
200 grams plain flour
5 grams salt
5 grams baking powder
20 grams cornflour
125 grams cold butter cut into 2 cm cubes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg or 50 mls cold water
250 grams cream cheese
200 grams chevre goats cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup spring onion - finely sliced from the white end up
salt and white pepper to taste - I used about 1/2 teaspoon of each
1 teaspoon of grated lemon rind
5 or 6 fresh figs
Dark balsamic vinegar
2 large brown or red onions - peeled and cut into 5mm slices.
1 tablespoon ghee or oil
2 sprigs of thyme
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup good red wine
Back strap (or topside) of lamb big enough for 4 - tossed in olive oil.
4 ripe roma tomatoes
1 clove garlic - crushed
sprinkle of fresh thyme (or if you don't have that some italian mixed herbs)
In the food processer blitz the butter and flours until it resembles bread crumbs, add the salt, lemon juice and water or egg. Process until it is a lump of dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the chilled pastry out on a floured surface to about 3 mm thick. Press it into a greased and floured 35cm x 13 cm x2 fluted loose bottom pie tin.Line the pastry with bake paper and then fill with baking beans or rice. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes in a 180° C oven (170°C if your oven is fan forced). Remove the paper and beans.
Combine the 2 cheeses by mashing together with a fork. Add the herbs, lemon rind and salt and pepper. Mix together and spoon into the pastry case. Place the figs into the cheese mixture and drizzle a few drops of the balsamic vinegar in each fig.
Bake for 45 minutes in a 180° C oven (170°C if your oven is fan forced).
While the pastry is chilling melt the ghee in a frypan. If you don't have ghee you can use half a tablespoon of butter and half a tablespoon of oil.
Add the onions and garlic and fry gently until they are golden.
Add the sugar and herbs and stir until the sugar melts.
Add the vinegar and wine and stir until the lumps of sugar melt.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the onion jam is sticky and thick.
For the lamb and vegetables.
Season the lamb with a few grinds of salt and pepper then brown it all over and place in an oven dish large enough to hold it and the vegetables.
Take the stalks out of the mushrooms and add a little garlic and herbs then replace the stalks.
Cut the tomatoes in half and sprinkle with some of the herbs, salt and pepper.
Roast the lamb and vegetables in the 180° C oven (170°C if your oven is fan forced) with the tart until it is cooked how you like it. For the back straps about 10 minutes - for a small topside of lamb about 30 minutes for well done.
When they are both cooked allow the lamb and the tart to rest for 5 - 10 minutes then cut and serve as I did in the picture at the top of the post.