From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
2 racks of lamb (trimmed, ask your butcher to do this for you)
50 g fresh white breadcrumbs
small bunch fresh basil, mint and parsley (stalks removed)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp olive oil
225 g fresh spinach (tough stalks removed)
25 g butter
for the red wine sauce:
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
150 ml red wine
1 tsp light muscovado sugar
150 ml beef or lamb stock
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
for the potato gratin:
300 ml milk
300 ml cream
4 garlic cloves (crushed)
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
450 g potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced)
50 g cheddar cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lamb is a huge favourite in the resturant and rarely off the menu. They say you can taste the flavours of the countryside where a lamb is reared and certainly this is true of the wonderful lamb we get here in Cavan, close to the Sligo border where the flavour of wild garlic sometimes permeates the meat. Irish lamb is best between March and September.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F/Gas 3).
First, make the gratin. Heat the milk and cream in a pan. Add the garlic and nutmeg and season well. Arrange the potatoes neatly in an ovenproof dish, making sure the top layer looks really nice and carefully pour the milk mixture on top. Cover with parchment paper and tin foil and place in the oven for 1 hour.
Remove, sprinkle over the cheese and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbling on top. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, make the red wine sauce. Heat a small pan and pour in the vinegar and red wine. Boil until reduced by half and then add the sugar, stock and thyme and reduce to a sauce consistency which should coat the back of a spoon. Pass the sauce through a sieve, season to taste and keep warm.
In another pan, melt the butter over a medium heat and cook the spinach until soft and wilted. Season to taste, drain off any excess liquid and keep warm.
Increase the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and prepare the lamb. Blend the breadcrumbs with the fresh herbs in the food processor for 2-3 minutes.
Brush the lamb flesh with the mustard and then press the herb crumbs onto the mustard side of the lamb.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and put the lamb in to seal it on all sides for about 2 minutes. Place in a roasting dish and put in the oven for 8-10 minutes if you like your lamb pink in the middle. If you want it more well done, leave it in for 15-20 minutes.
Remove and leave to rest in a warm place for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to settle.
Arrange some spinach on each warmed plate and add a portion of the potato gratin to each one. Carve the lamb into cutlets and arrange on top of the spinach. Drizzle around a little of the red wine sauce to serve.