March is the month of “change”. Spring is on the horizon and it’s time to make a few changes in preparation for all that the new season will bring. Food is an ideal starting point, as new produce comes into season and the mood changes. We now have items of food at our disposal that didn’t even exist when I first began cooking, and the modern Chef can now take advantage of a fully “mechanised” kitchen – in the past, we had to be part-machine part-chef to keep up! With the menu this month, I hope to demonstrate the changes that some of these dishes have undergone.
ROAST CROWN OF LAMB
This traditional English dish was very popular in my early years in England. As times have changed, its popularity has faded a little, however it makes a great dish to serve for an Easter Meal. A butcher will be happy to prepare the lamb for you, as long as you give them enough warning.
800g crown of lamb (usually 2 best ends of 6-7 ribs
800g Mirepoix (chopped celery, carrots and onions)
500 ml of strong stock
100 ml of white wine
Thickening agent: arrowroot, cornflour or Bisto
Salt and pepper-mill
2 large potatoes, properly scrubbed
1. Place the mirepoix in a lightly greased metal roasting tin
2. Place the tin in a hot oven 180°C and roast it for 15 minutes
3. Place the 2 potatoes in the middle of the crown to keep it open in the centre
4. Add the crown to the roasting dish with 150 ml of stock
5. Roast the lamb for 30-40 minutes. Don’t lower the temperature
6. Retrieve the lamb from the oven and keep it warm, well covered with foil or a cloth
7. The mirepoix now will be the base for a good gravy; place the tin on the open range
8. Bring to the boil, add the wine, reduce, add the stock and reduce again
9. Strain and thicken the liquid. Strain again and keep it hot until required
Serving suggestion: I would serve this meal with small roasted potatoes, peas, and asparagus. Mint jelly provides extra flavour.
FOUR SEASONS SALAD
I could not have made this salad in my restaurant in the 60s as some *ingredients were not available outside London.
2 eggs, hardboiled
*2 Belgian endives
*1 small can of artichokes hearts
1 small grated carrot
1 stick of celery chopped small
*1 small “Frisee” lettuce (ricciolina in Italy)
80g of small green and black pitted olives
*20g chopped tarragon
*60 mils of olive oil and vinegar dressing
1. Peel and quarter the egg
2. Wash and quarter the endives
3. Halve the avocado and discarding the hard seed, scoop out the pulp with a spoon
4. Slice the avocado pulp fairly thin lengthways.
5. Drain the artichokes and quarter them
6. Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.
7. Mix well: oil, vinegar and add salt and pepper from the pepper-mill
8. On a large shallow bowl, place the lettuce
9. Add the carrot and celery then all other ingredients around the bowl, with olives last
10. Add half the dressing all around the salad and save the rest for the guests if wanted
11. Sprinkle the chopped tarragon over the salad.
Serving suggestion: Serve with small bread rolls
ORANGE AND LIME POSSET
This dish was once served as a drink and was considered useful to combat the common cold, however it has now evolved to become more like a mousse or panna cotta. The typical recipe calls for a lemon flavour, however my experiments with orange and lime were very well accepted by my dining friends so I’ve chosen to share this version with you.
500 ml of double cream
Zest and juice of a large orange and two limes
50 ml of Curaçao
20g of arrowroot
150g soft brown sugar (moscovado is the best)
1. Using a non-stick saucepan bring the double cream to the boil
2. Add the ¾ of the zest and all juices of the fruit and when boiling again add the sugar
3. Simmer gently for 10 minutes
4. Dilute the arrowroot in a little cold water and add it to the cream
5. Cool the cream and add the Curaçao whisking lightly
6. Divide the Posset into 4 suitable dishes and rest it for up to 6-8 hours before serving
7. Sprinkle the rest of the zest over each dish and a pansy petal on each if you wish
Serving suggestion: I like to serve small shortbread biscuits with this dish.
BUON APPETITO – Giovanni Fontebasso