Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ispirazione Italiana!

My inspiration for the flavours of this rack of lamb is the famous Italian pasta dish, Spaghetti Puttanesca (Whore's spaghetti) which traditionally uses capers, chilli and anchovies. I have used these ingredients as part of a marinade for the lamb, resulting in a salty, slightly spicy taste that goes beautifully with the meat. If you are (god forbid!!) an anchovy hater, don't be put off. The anchovies add a beautiful piquant element to the dish that isn't remotely fishy. It may even convert you to the merits of anchovies in cooking. I personally think that no pasta sauce is complete without a few of those salty lil' fishies, but that's for another day and another recipe :)

To go with the lamb I have chosen Risoni - small, rice shaped pasta flavoured with mushrooms and pumpkin. You will find Risoni in the dry pasta section of most supermarkets. If you have trouble finding it, continental delis or food stores will stock it. It may also be called Risi, or if you happen to be buying it from a Greek food store like I did, it will be called Orzo. Regardless of the name, you will recognise it by its rice shape. It may come in a few different sizes too - choose whatever takes your fancy. Obviously the smaller they are, the quicker they will cook.

Over to you - inizi a cucinare! (that's Italian for start cooking!)
Rack of Lamb
with Pumpkin and Mushroom Risoni

For the lamb......
You will need: 2 x trimmed racks of lamb (4 cutlets on each rack), 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 cloves crushed garlic, 3 teaspoons finely chopped capers, 1 teaspoon very finely chopped red chilli (less if you aren't a chilli fan), 3 minced or very finely chopped anchovies, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper,a couple of pinches of salt.

For the risoni......
You will need: 300g risoni (orso), 1 large diced brown onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 cups cooked pumpkin cut into small cubes (it should be slightly firm and not overcooked), 2 cups thinly sliced button mushrooms, 2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms, 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, 2 tablespoons chopped continental parsley, 1 tablespoon salted butter, 1 tablespoon grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.

Method (lamb): Combine all of the ingredients to form a marinade. Place in a bowl with the lamb, mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Overnight is even better.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the lamb in a baking dish and cook to your liking (20 minutes for rare, 30 minutes for medium) Loosely cover the lamb in foil and allow it to rest for 10mins before carving.

Method (risoni): Soak the porcini in warm water until soft. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the liquid. Drain porcini and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion starts to turn transparent. Add the button mushrooms and the porcini and sautee for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin, stock and porcini liquid and allow to simmer until the liquid reduces by about half. Set aside.

Cook the risoni in salted boiling water until tender (around 8-10 mins) Drain thoroughly and add to the vegetable mixture along with the butter, parmesan and parsley. Combine well and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning as required. Serve with the carved rack of lamb.

Serves 4