Whenever a friend who we know is a pretty darned good cook calls us and invites us over for a meal, we’re usually pretty excited. When that friend is more than just “good” — when she’s taught cooking classes in Europe, comes from a family of restaurateurs, and most recently worked on Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France — we get ridiculously giddy.
Our good friend V moved back to Singapore a couple of years ago. Since then, she’s been thrilling us and over-feeding us with a slew of delicious meals and dishes. (Sadly though, ever since she’s come back to the Lion City, she’s been a tad delinquent on updating her blog, A Life in Food.) Last week, V called us and said a couple of magic words, specifically, “Easter lunch” and “roast leg of lamb”. Well, that’s all I needed to hear. Nothing could have kept me from that meal.
The lunch was everything I knew it would be. V pulled out all the stops. She whipped up a sloppy, sumptuous gratin dauphinois; a perfectly roasted leg of lamb with salsa verde; baked her own ham; prepared a humongous bowl of peas; mixed up a super-yummy vegetable and feta orzo salad; and put together a mean cheese plate. To follow all this, she served a lemon tart and a sinfully rich and gooey chocolate-raspberry cake.
The meal was fabulous. I pigged out on the lamb, ham and potatoes. When it came time to serve the cakes, everyone crowded around the table, eagerly jostling for a piece of the “gateau cocoframboise”. (Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera with me, so the pictures that accompany this post were taken with my Nokia e61i.) The great food, good wine, and cool company made this past Easter’s feast one of the best I’ve ever enjoyed.
I’ve asked V to do me a favour and share two of her recipes. I’m running them below, as written by her. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I enjoyed eating the resulting dishes.
Easter Recipes by V
Roast leg of lamb with salsa verde
Serves 8 normal people (or 4 greedy ones!)
Lamb is a fairly traditional Easter meal, but I like it with an Italian twist. The Salsa Verde really adds a lot of flavour as both a marinade and a sauce and is extremely versatile. I sometimes add mustard, chopped cornichons and/or other herbs (fresh coriander or basil are good ones). And any leftovers can be used for poached or grilled fish or chicken. You can keep it in a jar in the fridge for a week or more.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 handfuls of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
6 green onions, finely chopped
1 handful of fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup salted capers, soaked in cold water 30 minutes, chopped
3 or 4 fillets of anchovies, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 2kg boneless leg of lamb, butterflied, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Stir the salsa verde ingredients in large bowl. Taste and see if you want to add any more of anything; like most things in cooking, it’s all very personal. Place lamb on a tray, smooth-side down. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, then garlic. Massage 1/4 cup salsa verde into lamb (lucky lamb!). Roll up the lamb. Using kitchen string, tie the lamb every 2-inches in order to hold it together. Bear in mind this can be a slippery process and prepare to get a bit messy. Ideally you have a kitchen slave on hand to cut you bits of string. Or you could be super organised and have all the string you need cut beforehand. I have/am neither so messy it is.
Preheat oven to 220°C/450°F. Place lamb on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes then lower the oven temp to 170°C/350°F and add about an inch of water to make sure the lamb doesn’t burn (this also makes yummy pan juices). Continue cooking until thermometer inserted into thickest part of lamb registers 60°C/120°F for medium-rare, another 45 minutes or so.
Serve to happy friends.
Gâteau CocoFramboise (based on a Nigella recipe)
This cake is a fine example of a marriage made in heaven; chocolate and raspberries. The texture is what I would call a bit sludgy, in the best possible sense. Don’t worry that the batter seems too runny, the oven will sort it out and that’s what gives the cake its lovely gooeyness. And please, please, please use the best chocolate you can get your hands on. In my kitchen, that means Valrhona.
40g cocoa powder
200g self-raising flour
250g butter, cut into small pieces
100g dark muscovado sugar
100g golden caster sugar
300g dark chocolate, chopped
350g of water mixed with 2 teaspoons of instant expresso
2 eggs, at room temperature
350g frozen raspberries, well thawed
2 punnets of fresh raspberries
crème fraîche, quantity at your discretion
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Lightly butter a 9in/24cm cake pan (I use a silicone one). Combine the cocoa and flour in a bowl, whisk vigourously to remove any lumps and set to one side. In a pan over low heat, mix the next 5 ingredients (butter through expresso) together until smooth. Add this mixture to the cocoa and flour, mixing well. Then add the eggs, again mixing well. Pour half of the batter into the cake pan, then cover with the frozen thawed raspberries. Add the remaining batter and put into the oven for about 30-40 minutes, turning the cake around half way through. The best way to tell if this cake is cooked is to look at the top. If it is cracked and a bit firm, she’s good to go. Don’t try the normal skewer test with this one as the desirably sludgy factor will yield a very dirty skewer. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack for about half an hour.
Turn the cake out carefully onto a platter and dust with icing sugar. Best to eat this whilst warm and gooey with the fresh raspberries and crème fraîche dolloped on generously. Long live sludge!