For some reason, even after all these years, it still surprises me how people manage to make a whole city smell like a ginormic BBQ pit for weeks on end once the weather has found a stable routine during the Summer months without burning the whole town into a pile of smoldering ashes. After all, the use of open fires, coal-fired BBQs and all their gizmo’ish relatives are, at least in the densely populated areas of town, forbidden by law for exactly that reason.
I suppose, most of the time, it’s too hot – or mouthwatering – for our friends and protectors to actually try and pinpoint down each offender (herding the whole town behind bars might prove the easier task…). Anyways, just last Sunday, the aromas wafting through the streets were actually intense enough to creep through closed windows and doors and right into my nose – which immediately fired up the area labeled “Madeira” in the food section of my headspace. Slow-roasting garlic… slightly singed bay leaves… hot coals… meat juices dripping…
<insert mental slap here>
After getting a firm’ish grip on myself, I grabbed my bag and made a beeline for my favorite Butcher’s Shop (with what I sincerely hope was a straight face… or at least some sort of non-crazed expression) while my dear little roaring Travel Bug ran rampant in my head, shouting ingredients at me it wanted to be fed with, and pronto. Here’s what I came up with (dinner for 2 humans and 2 travel bugs or just 3-4 regular, un-bugged servings~):
The Lamb, The Black Cherries and The Ginja-Balsamic Jus
Just on a side-note, apart from a tiny bit of in-advance prep, this one’s a in-one-go (in-one-pan, too!) kind of quick-fix recipe, so be ready to fork in soon after the pan hits the stove~!
The Lamb Step #1
800g Lamb Saddle or Fillets
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
2 Sprigs of Rosemary
2 Sprigs of Thyme
1 Sprig of Oregano
2 Bay Leaves
½ Lemon, Zest only – the other half has a purpose further down below
Enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cover/marinade the meat
Freshly cracked black pepper
1) Pat the meat dry with a few paper towels, generously season the pieces with salt, pepper and lemon zest all around and place them in an airtight container.
2) Tuck the herbs and garlic cloves in between the pieces and cover everything with the olive oil.
3) Lock the box and stash it away in your fridge for anything from 4 to 24 hours – the longer the better!
4) If you’re short on time, don’t forget to get the cherries going at about the same 4-hr-to-pan mark.
The Black Cherries
100ml High-Quality Balsamic Vinegar
300g Black Cherries, pitted
½ Lemon, Juice and Zest
50ml of Black/Sour Cherry Liqueur – don’t use high voltage hooch, it would just poof out and leave nothing but a bitter bite behind. If you can’t get your hands on Ginja, try a smooth cherry liqueur around 15-25%. If all else fails, go for an organic Black Cherry Syrup
1 Tbsp of Dark Forest Honey
1 Pinch each of Salt and Hot Chilli Flakes
1) Pour the balsamic, liqueur and lemon juice into a bowl and stir in the honey.
2) Add the cherries, salt, chillies and lemon zest.
3) Give everything a gentle stir, cover the bowl with a sheet of clingfilm and allow the lot to macerate for 3-4 hours.
The Lamb, Step #2 and the Ginja & Balsamic Vinegar Jus
The Marinated Lamb
2 Tbsp Ghee
150ml Lamb Stock
1 Shallot, very finely diced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 generous Pinch of Cinnamon
1 Pinch of Hot Chilli Flakes
1) Take the container holding the lamb out of the fridge 1-2 hours before getting started on the last stretch.
2) Once it’s almost dinner’o’clock, fire up your pan on high heat and add the ghee.
3) Retrieve one sprig each of rosemary and thyme, one clove of garlic and the bay leaves out of the marinade and pop them into the pan.
4) Take the meat out of the container and give it another generous dusting with salt and pepper.
5) Gently lay the pieces into the pan and sear them into into a deliciously golden-brown state on all sides.
6) Take the meat out of the pan again as soon as it looks delicious – ignore the core temperature for now – and stash it away on a warmed plate for the time being.
7) Deglaze the piping hot pan with the lamb stock, add the shallot cubes, turn the heat to low and allow the liquid to reduce by ½.
8) Remove the herbs and garlic, stir in the liquids of your cherry bowl but keep the cherries back for now. Leave the lot to simmer down into a syrupy liquid perfectly capable of hugging your meat in a glossy coat.
9) In case you haven’t given a “side” much thought but suddenly decide you want one, this is the time to go on a pantry-raid and whip up a quick garden salad, fried potatoes or a slice of toasted bread.
10) Speaking of, stir in the cinnamon, add the lamb pieces and allow them to heat through, taking on the core temperature you like.
11) Just before the lamb hits perfection, add the cherries, give them a good swirlaround in the jus, and have a taste of the sauce.
12) Adjust the seasoning if necessary, plate up immediately, arm yourself with a knife and fork and… oh, hold on!
This one doesn’t really need a side dish, but just in case, here are some ideas~
One time I made this, I pulled some leftover ratatouille out of the fridge – yum! A simple green salad with a, orange-mustard vinaigrette made a refreshingly zingy companion to the lamb another time. And this time, I went with this:
3-4 Fingerling Potatoes per person, thinly sliced, salted, air dried for 2 hrs
fried w/ butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, 2 sprigs of fresh, 2 tsp of dried rosemary and chillies