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.
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
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
- Combine the port, brown sugar, shallot, garlic, and cranberries over a medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil.
- Allow to boil until the mixture is almost syrupy or is almost reduced, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- 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.
- Allow to continue boiling, again until mixture is thick and just about halved – another 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Once nicely thickened and reduced, turn off heat and stir in a knob of butter.
- 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)
- Pre-heat oven to 170
- Heat up a bit of oil in a heavy pot or frying pan
- Brown rack of lamb for a minute or two on all sides, although don’t brown the ends
- Transfer to an oven-proof dish and cook for around 20 minutes; a thermometer should read 120 when it’s done
- [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]
- 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
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil a medium-sized sacepan full of water
- Peel and roughly slice up the parsnips and the potatoes to prepare for boiling.
- 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.
- Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the largest pieces are tender enough to stick a fork in.
- Drain the parsnips and potatoes and transfer to a large bowl for mashing.
- Make as you would normal mash, although with a bit less milk since the parsnips tend to take on more water.
- 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).
- Stir thoroughly, and add salt and pepper to taste.