Autumn is the best season for lamb. Unlike spring lambs, autumn lambs benefit from having feasted on all those abundant summer grasses.
The combination of lamb and strawberry is something else. The sweet, citrusy berry is an unexpected but perfect complement to the tender, aromatic flesh that a rack of lamb offers.
I pre-ordered the lamb from my local butcher as there is a fair amount of preparation and trimming to be done. Saturday’s can be very busy and I didn’t want to create any enemies in the queue. He packaged up the trimmings separately and to avoid waste I turned them into a Lamb Madras for later in the week. So although the cut can seem quite expensive (almost £30 for 4 racks to feed 8), the additional meal from the trimmings makes it very worthwhile.
The idea for this menu came about after trawling through my favourite books on seasonal foods, pretty much at the last minute. We had invited six great friends around and the night was destined to be large.
I was hoping to serve octopus as a first course, but my visit to the fishmonger at the covered market in Oxford resulted in squid as an alternative. Next time I’ll make sure I give them a few days notice.
- Warm squid salad with fennel, asparagus and chilli
- Roasted rack of lamb
- Strawberry and mint salsa
- Roasted chipped potatoes with garlic and rosemary
- Steamed French beans and carrots
- Les Colonels (this time with Polish "Debowa" Vodka)
- Cheeses, grapes and coffee
For the racks of lamb, preheat the oven to 200 deg C, place the racks in a large baking dish so they support each other, and place sprigs of rosemary and halved strawberries (1 piece per person) in the space between.
Rub a little olive oil over the skin and sprinkle with salt before placing in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how pink you like it. You can remove the lamb from the oven and cover with foil for up to 30 minutes before serving to allow time to finish off the vegetables and it will stay hot enough to serve.
The salsa can be prepared an hour or so in advance. Chop up a punnet of strawberries and a large bunch of fresh mint leaves. Mix together in a bowl with some castor sugar (2-3 teaspoons) and sprinkle over some cider vinegar, mixing and tasting as you go to make sure it is neither to sharp nor too sweet. Cover with cling film until ready to serve.
The evening went large big time and in true pyro fashion we lit a fire in the brazier in the garden using some seasoned silver birch that had fallen in a storm earlier in June.