Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Rack of Lamb, Port and Cranberry Jus, and Parsnip and Horseradish Mash

I'm sitting in a cold, herb-less, husband-less house. Cold, because now that the evenings are chilly the empty, bricked-up shell of our extension sucks out all the heat from the rest of the house. Herb-less, because all the construction material in the garden has rendered my herbs a) impossible to get to and, more dramatically b) dead. And husband-less since Mr A&N has just started a new contract and is already working long nights and weekends. I tell you, between cooking for one and not having any herbs to make things taste special, sitting on the sofa (under blankets) and eating fish fingers sounds the smart thing to do.

But I persevere, and tonight I have tried to snap myself out of this rut in a grand way. To whit, I have enjoyed a lovely rack of lamb with a bit of port and cranberry jus, with parsnip and horseradish mash on the side. The combination of flavors is one I return to a lot – the rich and flavorful lamb, the slightly fruity and rich jus, and the mash with the astringent horseradish cutting through the starchy and sweet parsnips and potatoes. It did feel silly going to all this effort just for myself, and without a voice of reason I was very tempted to polish off the whole rack of lamb – it was there, I was there, we shared a special moment. But I was an adult and only ate my portion, leaving Mr A&N the chance for cold lamb chops when he got home at 11pm.

It was my first time for several of the things on the menu: first rack of lamb, first time working with fresh horseradish, first time making a real jus. The lamb was wonderfully easy to get right – a bit of quick browning on the stove, a bit of time in the oven, and a bit of time resting. All the recipes I looked at advised letting it rest for 10 minutes; perhaps because I spent a further several minutes setting up my camera and taking pictures it rested a bit longer than intended and it had cooled down by the time I got to it. I’d think of letting it rest for a little less time in the future and seeing what happens.

I expected the horseradish to be pungent in its raw form: Horseradish is in the mustard family, and I'm familiar with the sensation of eating too much horseradish or wasabi and feeling like someone has punched you between the eyes. However, I didn’t expect working with it to feel like I’d taken a piece of wool scouring pad and rubbed it on the inside of my eyelid. I’m delicate to begin with (onions always make me cry), but grating the horseradish made me weep in a way I don’t recall weeping since we put my childhood dog to sleep. I concluded I would have liked to taste a touch more horseradish in the mash, but to get it in there would have pushed me to the edge and beyond. May all of you not be as disfigured by it as I was. For my feat of daring-do with the horseradish, I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Pille at Nami-Nami.

Rack of Lamb with Port and Cranberry Jus and Parsnip and Horseradish Mash
Serves 2

Tip: you should get the jus cooking first, since this takes the longest

Port and Cranberry Jus

  • 1 ½ C port
  • 2 tsp brown or muscovado sugar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ C chicken stock
  • Knob of butter
  1. Combine the port, brown sugar, shallot, garlic, and cranberries over a medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil.
  2. Allow to boil until the mixture is almost syrupy or is almost reduced, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the stock to the mix, and stir well. If stock is already salted, you may need to add more sugar in order to balance out the salty taste.
  4. Allow to continue boiling, again until mixture is thick and just about halved – another 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  5. Once nicely thickened and reduced, turn off heat and stir in a knob of butter.
  6. Strain to remove onions and cranberries if you would like a smooth sauce, leave rustic if not.

Simple Rack of Lamb

  • 1 rack of lamb (about 8 chops)
  • Oil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 170
  2. Heat up a bit of oil in a heavy pot or frying pan
  3. Brown rack of lamb for a minute or two on all sides, although don’t brown the ends
  4. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and cook for around 20 minutes; a thermometer should read 120 when it’s done
  5. [de-glaze the pan the lamb was browned in by pouring in a bit of the jus, and then returning this mixture to the pot where the jus is simmering]
  6. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes

Parsnip and Horseradish Mash

  • 4-5 parsnips (depending on their size)
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • Fresh horseradish
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil a medium-sized sacepan full of water
  2. Peel and roughly slice up the parsnips and the potatoes to prepare for boiling.
  3. The parsnips will take slightly longer to boil than the potatoes will, so either place the parsnips in the boiling water a few minutes before you put the potatoes in, or cut up the parsnips into smaller pieces than the potatoes.
  4. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the largest pieces are tender enough to stick a fork in.
  5. Drain the parsnips and potatoes and transfer to a large bowl for mashing.
  6. Make as you would normal mash, although with a bit less milk since the parsnips tend to take on more water.
  7. Peel some of the skin off the fresh horseradish, and using the fine side of the grater, grate about a tablespoon of horseradish into the mash (you might want more than this, or you might find yourself incapable of achieving the 1 Tbs because of the agony to your eyes).
  8. Stir thoroughly, and add salt and pepper to taste.


Jules said...

This meal sounds and looks delicious.

Chris said...

Looks great. Out of interest, why do you not brown the ends of the rack? I did lamb last week and thought I was doing the right thing by sealing all the flesh.

Annemarie said...

Hi Jules- Thanks, I was quite proud of it considering I was leaning toward a fish finger sandwich that night. :)

Hi Chris- I reckon it's to keep the two end chops in the same cooked condition as the chops in the middle. If you brown the ends, they'd cook a bit more and so wouldn't be as pink as the others.

Niamheen said...

Good on you! Looks and sounds delicious :-)

Pille said...

That sounds sooo comforting and delicious, Annemarie! I love horseradish, though I haven't included it in a mash so far - need to chance that soon!
Thank you for a lovely WHB entry!

Kalyn said...

What a lovely dinner. I've never cooked fresh horseradish, although I do love the bottled kind so I'm guessing it would be a winner with me for sure!

Annemarie said...

Hi Niamheen - thanks!

Hi Pille - I've learned a new respect for horseradish, which I enjoy anyway. Ways to use up the rest of the huge root hasn't been easy, though.

Hi Kalyn - yes, I love the bottled kind to; it's just as good as that, minus the vinegary-ness so it's easier to integrate.

Jeanne said...

I don't know why I never make rack of lamb... It's so delicious and not hard work at all. LIke the sound of the horseradish & parsnip mash too.

Jules said...

I made this dish tonight minus the horseradish mash as I was unable to get hold of horseradish. The sauce complemented the lamb perfectly. We both really enjoyed it.

Annemarie said...

Hi Jules - Wow, I'm flattered you gave it a go! Very pleased (and relieved!) to hear you enjoyed it. :)