lamb dishChris Lacey is a British chef living in France who loves French-inspired cooking. In a continuing series of recipes using a seasonal star ingredient, for May he rustles up one quick – Menu Rapide – and one slower – A La Carte – dish with lamb.

‘At this time of the year lamb is very popular in France. There are two types available – Spring lamb (agneau) which is less than a year old and milk-fed or baby lamb (agneau de lait or agnelet) that has not been put out to graze. The French, as we know, waste very little of an animal carcass so one of this month’s recipes is for lamb’s kidneys (les rognons) – do try it!

MENU RAPIDE – Rognons a La Creme

Serves 4

16 lamb’s kidneys
50g butter
Tablespoon olive oil
Large onion, diced
250g button mushrooms
50ml cooking brandy
50ml red Pineau
150g thick cream (look for epasse 30%)
500ml of good meat stock
Paprika
Salt and pepper

Peel the kidneys, cut out the centre core and slice them into 5 or 6 pieces. Melt the butter and oil in a large pan and add the diced onion when the oil has heated. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the onions become transparent. Then add the kidneys and seal quickly. Next, add the mushrooms and toss with the onions and kidneys.

Turn the heat to maximum and pour in the brandy. Tilt pan to ignite the brandy, after a few moments when the flames subside add the stock and Pineau. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the kidneys and mushrooms and keep to one side. Add the cream, turn up the heat again and reduce the liquid by two thirds, stirring so it does not stick.

When the sauce is nice and thick, add the kidney mixture and season with the salt, pepper and a little paprika. Reheat gently and serve on a bed of plain rice.

A LA CARTE – Blanquette d’agneau de lait a L’ancienne

Serves 4

1.5 kilo shoulder of milk-fed lamb (it is possible to use spring lamb for this dish)
1 litre of good stock, strained and skimmed
2 carrots, thickly diced
2 medium sized onions, peeled.
16 small onions
250g button mushrooms
60g butter
70g flour
4 egg yolks
100ml thick cream (again, look for epasse 30%)
Dash of lemon juice
Some freshly grated nutmeg.
Cloves
Bouquet Garni (sprig of rosemary, 2 bay leaves, stick of celery, half of the white part of a leek and a sprig of parsley tied securely with string.)
Salt and pepper

Soak the diced shoulder of lamb in water for an hour then bring to the boil, strain and plunge into cold water to cool. Pat it dry. Place the lamb in a thick casserole and add enough stock to cover the meat well. Stud one of the medium-sized onions with cloves. Add this and the other onion, plus the carrots and bouquet garni. Season with salt and coarsely ground pepper.

Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook with a lid on for 1 hour.

While the meat is cooking, poach on a gentle heat the small onions and the mushrooms in a little stock for a few minutes.

Once the meat has cooked for an hour, remove it from the casserole, trim off any odd bits of skin and then place the lamb into a shallow pan with the poached onions and mushrooms.

In another saucepan make a roux* with the melted butter, flour and add the stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes, strain and pour over the lamb. Simmer the blanquette for another 20 minutes.

Combine the egg yolks with the lemon juice, cream and nutmeg, blend this into the blanquette being careful not to let it boil after the liaison. The dish is now ready to serve.
 
* Roux: melt the butter, remove from the heat and add the flour; stir until a completely mixed, and cook on a low heat for one minute.

Illustration by Rebecca Houldershaw; email [email protected]

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