marinated rack of lamb

i pinched this recipe from the ottolenghi cook book. weirdly enough, despite it being just round the corner, we have never eaten there. i have suggested it, on several occasions, but i suspect rich would rather go to dallas chicken than share a large table with complete strangers, in a faux hippy, isn't-being-a-yoghurt-weaver-such-fun. while paying 4 quid for a muffin.

to be honest, i am not hugely keen on going either. i have the same reservations about their set up: i can't help thinking i'd like a bit of privacy (especially at those prices). i have bought meringues from the deli at the front in the past - they look stunning but mine didn't taste much worse - and i've treated others to cakes but i have never tried their 'proper' food.

so why i bought not one but two ottolenghi cookbooks is slightly beyond me. i seem to remember the second one was an attempt to find something to cook for some vegetarian friends - i've since discovered that simon hopkinson's 'the vegetarian option' is a much better bet.

i've cooked hardly anything from either. what puts me off is that a lot of the recipes embody what i dislike about a great deal of vegetarian cooking: it's as if the ingredients have been thrown together without a great deal of thought for which flavours work. this kind of food relies on the 'more is more' principle, whereas the best meat-free options from carnivores are usually the simplest ones. do you really need to cook dill with cauliflower? or sprinkle pomegranate seeds over sea bream? i think not.

i am probably missing a point here - after all, what are you going to eat if you want vegetarian without resorting to stodge? and anyway, this lamb recipe has redeemed ottolenghi from its mung-bean tendencies.

obvious pointers: definitely do marinate for as long as you can. and don't bother doing it unless you have the fresh herbs.

for 4

1kg rack of lamb, french trimmed
20g flatleaf parsley, including stalks
30g mint, including stalks unless they're really tough
30g coriander, again with stalks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
15g ginger, peeled and sliced (fresh, obviously)
3 chillies, seeded
50ml lemon juice
60ml soya sauce
120ml sunflower oil
2tbs red wine vinegar
4tbs water

separate the rack into 2-3 rib portions. place in a bowl. blitz together all the other ingredients in a food processor, then smear/pour all over lamb. the sauce is quite runny. cover and put in a fridge to marinate overnight or even longer.

when you're ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 220C and get your cast iron pan out and hot on top of the stove. you need the kind you can put in the oven.

remove the meat from the marinade and scrape off excess sauce. sear the meat on all sides - apparently it should take around 5 minutes but i think i did mine quicker. now put the whole pan in the oven, for about 15 minutes. the exact timing will depend on the size of your rack (ahem) and how you like your meat done. 15 minutes is still quite pink.

while the lamb is cooking, transfer the marinade to a small saucepan and bring to boil. simmer the sauce for a few minutes to reduce - you will lose some of the colour the longer you do it but mine would have been too runny without good ten minutes on the stove.

serve the lamb with the hot sauce on the side.


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