Sunday, 10 January 2010

Chickpeas and Lamb

I put chickpeas before lamb in the title of this post because of the extra effort it takes to cook dried chickpeas. It is the same with any of the dried legumes and pulses. And if you try this I hope you will agree the effort is worth it. I used the method from the latest River Cafe book.
The hard work for the lamb was already done before I bought it, by the incredible organic farm shop just up the road. 
500g Dried Chickpeas (look for a use by date as distant as possible)
2 Peeled potatoes
Bulb of Garlic
Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours with one of the peeled potatoes. The acid in the potatoes helps to soften the skin. The following day you drain the chickpeas and discard the potato. Put the chickpeas into a large pan and cover generously with cold water, the other peeled potato, a big sprig of rosemary and half the bulb of garlic unpeeled. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender. This depends on the age of the chickpeas, but it should be between 1 and 1 and a half hours. When they are soft and buttery, drain them and discard the potato, garlic and rosemary. Warm another sprig or two of rosemary and the rest of the unpeeled garlic cloves with some olive oil in a pan to infuse the oil. Add the drained chickpeas and sizzle over a low heat while you deal with the lamb.
The piece of Lamb I used was from the top of the leg. I got the butcher to remove the bone and butterfly it ready for the char grill. I remove the lamb from the fridge a good hour before I start to cook it. Get the char grill heating up for a good ten minutes on a high heat, so it is searingly hot and heat the oven to its highest temperature. Then season the lamb well with salt, pepper and rub it over with olive oil. Wack the lamb on the char grill and leave well alone for a good few minutes to develop a good savoury crust. Turn it once and char the other side, before sticking it in the oven on a tray for around ten minutes. This should give you meat that is a beautiful rosy pink. Let it rest before slicing while you get the rest of the meal ready.
When i cook this sort of meal I usually just serve some braised greens. Either spring greens, cavolo nero, chard or in my dream world an Italian green called cime di rape. I blanch the greens until tender, then toss in a pan with oil and any number of flavorings. Dried chilli, salted anchovies and garlic to name a few. Bitter greens work particularly well with these punchy seasonings, as do acids such as wine vinegars and lemon. 
After the lamb has rested for a good ten minutes pop it back into the oven you have warmed your plates in, to bring the meat back up to temperature. Slice the meat and serve with the greens and chickpeas. 

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