Thursday, 22 March 2007

A new trick: South east Asian spiced lamb chops

I love lambchops. I love them crunchy, charred and herby, lemony and very, very salty, married with creamy feta alongside some warm, bursting cherry tomatoes. So that is how I always have them. I have done for years. However, yesterday I wanted a change not so much in taste, but in the way that I cook them.

I took my lead from some Asian salad leaves that I brought at South Melbourne market. I didn’t actually use the salad leaves, but I did buy and use some fresh turmeric, galangal, red scud chillies, ginger root, lemongrass, coriander, normal limes, and best of all, fresh, bumpy, kaffir limes, which I had never seen before. I also brought silverbeet and pumpkin, because they looked good and I love them; and fresh figs, because they are sublime and suddenly affordable; and of course, a tray of lamb chops. Oh, and some corn on the cob, which alongside the salad, is the only thing that I didn’t use, and is now sitting in the kitchen, dehydrating and looking weary. After a coffee and doughnut shared with the baby (she had babychino, and I scoffed the doughnut when she wasn’t looking, as she should not eat such bad things – she is not quite 1 yet, and gelati on very special occasions is as wicked as food gets for her), we went home, and I started to think about what to do with the lamb. By the time I had put everything away and tidied up, the baby had woken up, so I waited till the evening to cook. In the interim, I read David Thompson’s fine but (in our house) under-utilised Thai Food.

I would guess that (I may be wrong) lamb is not a big part of south-east Asian cuisine, so I looked at his beef recipes. I settled on Marinated beef salad, however added ingredients which weren’t in there, as I had them and wanted to use them (ginger, turmeric, galangal). I also altered quantities to suit the increased amount of meat.

Hence, my not really authentic South East Asian lamb chop recipe was cooked like this:

8 thin chump chops
large pinch salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 2 kaffir limes
Juice of 1 normal lime
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
5 chillies
1 chopped large red onion
1 stalk lemongrass
grated zest of 2 kaffir limes (in lieu of lime leaves)
Mint leaves
Coriander leaves
1 inch ginger root
1 inch galangal
1 thin inch turmeric.

I put all of the ingredients bar the lamb and lemongrass in the food processor to make a marinade. This was added to the lamb in a deep bowl, and left it for about 40 minutes. I added the lemongrass towards the end of the marinating time, as I it needs to be chopped late so as to preserve its freshness. As the lime partially cooked the lamb, I heated it slowly but not for very long in a large pan.

We ate the sour, salty, spicy and vividly fresh lamb in front of desperate housewives, recorded and saved from Monday. The spices and lime cut through the sweetness and richness of the lamb beautifully, as did the Coopers Sparkling Ale. We had it with silverbeet, sweated with a little chilli and fish sauce; and plain steamed rice with sweet potato cubes. We feasted really well, and I learnt a new trick with lamb. We concluded with fresh figs and yoghurt.


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