Chef Shane Rigney looks at the history of an Easter favourite, the roast lamb and shares a tasty recipe.
ON EASTER SUNDAY, in normal times anyway, we would gather with family and friends to sit down and feast on lamb as is the tradition for thousands of years, literally dating to pre-Christian times.
In the Jewish tradition, observing Passover, the faithful would paint the blood of the sacrificed lamb on their doors so that God would ‘pass over’ them in punishment of sinners and the lamb would become the centrepiece of the holiday feast.
This ritual became customary in Christian faiths following the death of Jesus, often referred to as the ‘lamb of God’ given he was sacrificed for his followers and indeed told his disciples to eat of his body on Holy Thursday.
And whilst Easter has associations with many other foods such as eggs and their foundation in pagan practices around fertility, the traditional dinner of roast lamb on Easter Sunday persists to this day across many denominations.
With the history lesson over, it’s hard to forget that this is our second Easter under the cloud of Covid and those previous languid celebrations, so often the mark of brighter days and another Spring sprung are not going to be the same this year the irony of the almost biblical proportions of oppression that the pandemic brings is not lost on me.
If only there was something we could smear on our doors to have the Covid storm pass over. However brighter days are coming and as we look forward to summer just around the corner with hope and optimism that we are near the end of this most horrible of times, let’s celebrate with whomever we can, safe in our bubbles with this simpler but altogether as a delicious lamb dinner recipe.
Designed to be cooked for one, two or four, it’s an altogether more restaurant version of the bells and whistles family roast cooked for many but quicker and with less fuss, pots and clean up.
Using canon or loin of lamb instead of a whole leg roast means that the meat is cooked to pink perfection in barely ten minutes and with just a few key sides and easy pan sauce, you can have all of the taste and flavour of your favourite Easter dinner without the hours spent slaving.
Ingredients: for 2
4 new potatoes, scrubbed with skins left on
olive oil, for frying
10 baby carrots, washed
6 cloves of garlic, skin on and smashed
A couple sprigs of rosemary
300g piece of lamb loin or canon cut in 2
50ml of red wine
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
200ml lamb or beef stock
2 large handfuls of baby spinach washed
Heat oven to 180C. In a pan, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 mins until just tender and cut into halves or quarters when drained.
Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat until hot, add a little oil and toss the potatoes in with the garlic and rosemary and half of the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper and allow the butter to brown slightly and when the garlic and potatoes are starting to crisp transfer to an oven pan. Coat the carrots in a little olive oil and add to the pan with the potatoes then roast in the oven for 25 mins.
After 15-minute place an ovenproof frying pan over medium heat and a drizzle of olive oil. Season the lamb all over and, when the oil is quite hot, add it to the pan.
Fry the lamb for 1-2 mins on each side, using tongs to press down gently to caramelise. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 5 mins until the lamb is just springy to touch. Cook for another 3 minutes if you prefer well cooked.
Remove and allow to rest on a warm plate covered with tin foil while you prepare the sauce.
Add the red wine to the roasting juices in the frying pan over medium-high heat. Reduce to just under half the liquid then add the redcurrant jam and stir in well. Add the stock and reduce until thick and glossy.
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Wilt the spinach with remaining butter and season.
Plate the potatoes and carrots artfully on two warmed plates then carve the pieces of lamb into 1-inch slices. Place the spinach around the plate in between the other veg and arrange the lamb across the centre of the plate. Spoon over the sauce and drizzle more around the vegetables. Pull some of the roasted rosemary from the sprigs and garlic cloves and scatter across the meat to serve.
Enjoy and Happy Easter!
Shane Rigney is a chef and owner of Riggers D8 in Inchicore. Find out more on Riggers online, Instagram and Facebook.