There are a handful of ingredients that are essential to my kitchen kit. Chilli, flaky sea salt, herbs, and olive oil all play a key role in ‘waking up’ humble ingredients and adding character and flavour to a whole range of dishes – a fresh seasonal salad, a big tray of roasted root veggies, stews, soups, chutneys, and sweets.
If flaky sea salt, olive oil, herbs and chilli are the classic pair of denim jeans of the kitchen – safe, trusty and comfortable – then lemons are the bright feature piece, the killer heels, the bright lipstick, and the statement bag to go with them. In my opinion, lemons are the ingredient that every cook should have on hand to add exciting, fresh flavour to food.
Sliced into rounds in a mug of hot water and honey, juiced and made into zingy marinades and dressings for salads, meat and fish, cooked down with spices and sugar to make beautiful chutney, juiced and heated with eggs and sugar to make a luscious curd, or preserved in a salty brine before being added to tagines. The possibilities for using lemons in cooking are endless and their effect on food is, to put it simply, game changing.
4 pieces (approx. 200gm each) of lamb back strap
1 cup celery leaves
1 cup mint leaves
¼ cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1 cup purple kale, finely chopped – other varieties of kale can be substituted here or swiss chard, spinach
Baby purple basil, snipped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Shred the cauliflower and place in a bowl with the celery leaves, mint, kale, pistachios and baby basil. Set aside.
Put the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, chilli, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust flavour, adding more juice or seasoning as needed. Set aside.
Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Brush the lamb with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook for approx. 3 minutes each side, or until cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
While the lamb is resting dress the salad. Drizzle the lemon-chilli dressing over the salad and toss gently with your fingertips.
To serve, slice the lamb and arrange on a serving board or platter. Sprinkle with some sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve alongside the lemony cauliflower and kale salad and mustard.