Friday, 3 June 2011

Recipe Road Test: Lamb Chops with Pickled Cauliflower

My challenge for this blog entry was to take a recipe by a renowned chef for an 'achievable' or 'easy' supper dish and test it out.

My choice of recipe came from the Guardian website, having been devised by Angela Hartnett. Angela will be known to many people in the UK as a former contestant and current judge on 'The Great British Menu'. Her 'day job' is as chef patron and owner of Murano restaurant (which she recently purchased from her mentor's company, Gordon Ramsay Holdings) and as the consultant chef at the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Rooms (which I can vouch for as being a delightful place for Sunday lunch). She is one of the nation's top chefs, and a real inspiration: a female chef who has made a name and amazing reputation in a male dominated trade. I was hoping for a dish which would be wonderfully tasty, but also simple enough that the likes of me wouldn't mess it up!

I do not believe in plagiarism of any kind, so if you want to see Angela's recipe, you will find it here:

Firstly, I prepared everything I needed for the pickled cauliflower salad. I started by dry roasted some pine nuts in the smallest pan in the house (a milk pan) until they just changed colour. Then I used the same pan to dry roast the cumin seeds (how much washing up do you expect me to do in the name of gastronomical experiment?). After allowing them to become fragrant and darken a little (about 3 mins in a hot pan), I ground the cumin seeds. 

Then I mixed together the vinaigrette for the cauliflower. This was made of olive oil, red wine vinegar and the cumin.

Next I had to cook the cauliflower.  The only description for the size of the florets was 'large' and that they would need about 5 minutes cooking, so I had to do my best to guess what the correct size was and hope they would not overcook. This is the rough size I came up with:

With a 5 min cooking time (cauliflower floret usually take 7-8 mins to cook), I suspected it was an 'al dente' effect she was guiding me towards, with the vinaigrette doing the rest of the work. Whilst boiling, I prepared the chopped parsley.

After cooking and draining the florets, it was time to assemble the cauliflower salad. The picture above shows all the ingredients prior to mixing (including the raisins added at the last minute). The heat from the florets is supposed to help marinate the salad, so I mixed it up and allowed it to cool before moving to cooking the lamb.

I used my griddle pan to cook the lamb chops. My grill isn't very controllable and takes so long to get to a high temperature, I thought there would be less fuss and time wasted by using the griddle. I heated up the griddle on the hob before adding the lamb. The recipe called for 3 mins each side.

Of course, the other advantage of a griddle pan is the nice dark stripes it puts on the meat which always looks really appetising!

Then of course, it was time to 'plate up'. I served two chops each with the cauliflower salad and a little rocket.
So, the verdict...
I'm not so sure this recipe is a complete success for us, but may well be for others. It will depend on your taste (see below). I was able to follow it and not too much went wrong. 

You will notice that the 4 chops are not of equal size, so the cooking time ended up being a bit of a problem. I intended to have the 2 small ones and give the larger ones to Him Indoors (men and their red meat should not be parted!). Sadly, his ended up being a little rarer than they ought to have been. They could have done with about an extra minute overall. Mine were perfectly done, and I'm glad to have learnt a method and timing for cooking lamb chops, something I've avoided. I've always worried about either under or over cooking meat, so I think I now have it licked.

I enjoyed the cauliflower salad, but wasn't so sure how well the 2 components (the lamb and the salad) went together. The cumin, raisins and pine nuts from the salad suggested Turkish/Middle Eastern influences, yet the lamb is cooked very plainly. Him Indoors, on the other hand, really did not like the salad, saying he found it too sour and vinagry. In my experience, women tend to prefer tangier sour flavours and men less so, therefore I guess that is just a male-female thing.

Sadly, therefore we will not be having this again. I will return to Angela's weekly recipes for the Guardian as I'm sure subsequent recipes will meet with more success in Snig's Kitchen! 

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