JESSIE For me, a rack of lamb is the food of love. My first Valentine’s meal with my now husband was when we were 19. In fact, our first Valentine’s Day fell two dates into our courtship a year earlier. It was a Friday night and I had made plans with my friend Amber months before to go on a single girls’ Valentine date in Brixton. So I promised both Amber and Sam I would see them and drank half a bottle of Amaretto for a little Dutch courage. As I slurred a nervous ‘hello’ to his parents in their living room, I was a bag of nerves. Should I have got him a card? Were we actually going to ‘watch a film’ in his bedroom? Would the Amaretto stay down on an empty stomach? But what really threw me was, do I eat the barbecue chicken pizza (my favourite) with the garlic dip ordered by my suitor and risk food in my teeth and foul breath before our potential first kiss? I was so hungry but I weighed up all the risks and resisted, pretending I had already eaten. After the film had finished, he drove me in his mum’s car to Brixton and there we had our first kiss, all five seconds of it, as Amber interrupted us with the fifth call of the night.
The following Valentine’s Day was our ‘anniversary’ so I rustled up a rack of lamb and dauphinoise potatoes. The dish was a declaration of love, so it made sense to try to woo domestic goddess Nigella Lawson with a rack of lamb when she guested on the podcast. I will never forget her sucking on those bones.
This dish is rather easy but looks incredibly fancy. Serve with coco de paimpol or haricot beans and greens.
LENNIE I first tasted coco de paimpol beans at Skye Gyngell’s restaurant Spring. In season during summer and early autumn, they have a wonderful creamy texture. They’re only grown in Brittany, so if they’re not available, I use tinned white haricot beans to serve on the side.
2 racks of lamb, French trimmed (fat removed and bones cleaned – ask your butcher to do this)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
150g shelled pistachios
30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
30g fresh mint, leaves only grated zest of 1 lemon
75g crustless bread, a day or two old
2 tbsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
2. Season the lamb. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the olive oil and brown the lamb for 2-3 minutes on all sides.
3. Whiz the garlic, pistachios, herbs, lemon zest and bread in a food processor until finely chopped.
4. Spread a tablespoon of mustard over each rack of lamb and coat in the herby breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently so that it sticks.
5. Roast for 15-20 minutes (15 minutes will be very pink). Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
TIP If serving with tinned haricot beans, drain the beans and tip into a pan, adding a crushed garlic clove, a knob of butter, some chopped fresh parsley and half a chicken stock cube. Cook over a very low heat for about 20 minutes.