Lamb is good to go now. In April, at Easter, it’s usually rubbish, but in June, the meat is still tender but the flavour has developed. It is deeper, richer and earthier, and stands up against some of its bedfellows – cumin, for example, or anchovies – much more readily.
Lamb also likes to dance with peas. Such saporous, generous meat works beautifully with peas, delicate and sweet as they are. Were lamb and peas to appear on Love Island, chances are they would get together. “Hello,” the lamb would say in a Leslie Phillips voice, tanned out of the oven. The peas would tumble all over it. Peas are sexy.
Roasting legs and shoulders aside, I think we would all be hard-pressed not to suppose lamb chops react best to being grilled over charcoal. The fat renders and the meat stays loose.
The best lamb chops in the business are found at the Guinea Grill in Mayfair but Ben Tish, executive chef of the Cubitt House group, also works wonders. He serves his chops with fresh peas and a hot cumin and mint vinaigrette. “There’s nothing like the smell of lamb chops cooked over charcoal – they seem to be made for it”, Tish says. “The tasty fat lightly charring and crisping, the outside flesh caramelising and then the meat juicy and pink inside. Absolute heaven.”
He’s right, of course. Lamb chops are heaven – the ultimate bar snack, the ideal summer food to be enjoyed outside with a bottle of Whispering Angel or some sort of Burgundy. I can think of few pleasures that match biting the pocket of flesh from a chop, not least when it’s covered in a vinaigrette such as this one.
Ben says: “I’ve paired the chops with a simple but really interesting dressing I sampled in Sicily, although there, the vinaigrette came with chalky broad beans and fresh fennel fronds instead of the peas and mint. Both versions are delicious.”
LAMB CHOPS WITH FRESH PEAS
8 new season lamb chops, trimmed of excess fat
180g of shelled fresh English peas or frozen garden peas
1 small bunch fresh mint
100ml sweet, white vinegar – like white balsamic
150ml extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp lightly crushed cumin seeds
Juice of ½ a lemon
Sea salt, pepper and olive oil for cooking
Ensure your barbeque or grill is at an optimum temperature. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the peas until just tender.
Refresh in iced water, drain and reserve.
Season the chops well and rub with olive oil.
Place on the grill and cook on one side for 4 mins. There should be a good caramelisation when the chops are turned, along with a slight charring along the fat. Turn the chops over and cook for a further 3 mins or until medium rare.
The chops should have a good spring to the flesh when pressed. Remove the lamb from the grill, squeeze over the lemon and rest on a rack in a warm spot for 5-7 mins. This will allow the meat to rest, give an even colouring and
tenderise the flesh. Reserve any of the resting juices.
Whisk together the extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, season well and then heat in a saucepan along with the cumin and garlic until the garlic just starts to fizz. Now add the peas, turn off the heat, pour in the lamb resting juice and season to taste.
To serve, divide some of the peas, along with some of the vinaigrette, on to 4 serving plates.
Place two lamb chops on top of each pile of peas and then spoon over the remainder of the pea and vinaigrette. Finish each plate with a sprinkle of fresh mint leaves.