Thursday, April 30, 2009

Springing lamb - it's a brand new season

With cheese at this time of year, I can't help myself looking towards sweet cream and youthfulness. I'm a massive fan of anything cultured that's been transformed from milk to something I can slice into a sandwich or drape over a cracker - there isn't a cheese I've tasted and rejected - ever. There's a new season flood of fresh goats’ cheeses at the market right now, and these are floating more than just my boat, I'm also on the look out for the less familiar. A young Lancashire , mild, milky and perfect to throw into a slightly warm salad of early spring vegetables we've only just been talking about, and an early Explorateur, being the stuff to drape over a proper oatcake, both of which snuck into my shopping basket only yesterday.

Generally I’m not a massive fan of spring lamb as I find it dull both in flavour and texture. But I'm in the Middle East now, and as beggars simply cannot be choosy over their imported meat goods, I was almost overcome with one of those must buy now young lamb frenzies I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience, the butcher here may not have seen that sort of enthusiasm since the recent first day of the spring goat season. It mattered not once home and in the kitchen armed with a plan, and a snippet or two from the newest shoots of rosemary from my window box.

Lamb with goat's cheese, rosemary and pesto

Serves 2

4 new season's lamb steaks or chops
1 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tblsp fresh young rosemary needles
100g fresh soft goat's cheese
2 tblsp pesto

Half a cucumber
250ml thick, natural yogurt
2 spring onions
1 handful mint leaves

Grate the cucumber into a sieve or colander, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and sit it in the sink for half an hour to rid the cucumber of much of its water and any bitterness.

Finely chop the spring onions and stir them into the yoghurt along with the mint leaves, roughly chopped. Squeeze the liquid from the cucumber, then stir it into the yoghurt. Keep this mix cool until you need it.

Bruise the rosemary with the back of a knife, and add to the olive oil with a seasoning of salt and black pepper then rub this mix gently into the meat. Cook the lamb under a hot grill until the outside is sizzling and just about to turn a nice golden brown and sizzling. The meat should still be a fresh rosy pink inside. Top each chop with a dab of pesto, then a spoonful of your goat's cheese, return to the grill for barely a minute more.

Serve the lamb with the yoghurt dip, and any remaining cheese tumbled through a crisp green salad on the side.