Lamb swaps for Easter

Kidderminster Shuttle: Lamb swaps for Easter Lamb swaps for Easter

With Easter around the corner, it's the perfect time to feast on succulent lamb - but you don't have to stick to the traditional roast. Ewe could try a tasty tagine, and chops aren't baa-d either, as chef Mark Sargeant tells Keeley Bolger.

After months of being cooped up cooking indoors, it's no surprise that Mark Sargeant, restaurant owner and a former head chef for Gordon Ramsay, is pleased that spring has finally sprung.

As well as the promise of leeks, beans and asparagus, the Kent-based foodie, who was seen on the first series of ITV reality cooking show Hell's Kitchen with his fiery old boss Ramsay, is looking forward to tucking into a succulent lamb lunch with his family this Easter - and, if the weather permits, eating it outside.

And while Sargeant loves serving up a traditional roast with all the trimmings, he's hoping that the promise of new season lamb will encourage more of us to cook the meat regularly, and try some different recipes with it.

"Lamb is one of the bestsellers in restaurants, certainly all the restaurants I've ever worked in, whether it's fine dining or not," explains the 40-year-old, who is working with the Simply Beef & Lamb campaign to encourage us to be more adventurous.

"Generally, when people go shopping, they go straight for chicken or beef and still see lamb as an occasion meat. But it's fantastic, available all year round and the cheaper cuts are the best cuts, as long as you know how to use them."

Although Sargeant, who rates tenderloins, neck fillets and shoulders as great budget cuts, eats lamb at least once a week, he hasn't tired of the meat yet and will be going all-out so that his family's Easter lunch will be extra special.

"My eldest daughter turned four in March, so we'll be doing an Easter egg hunt for the second year running," says the chef, who runs the Rocksalt restaurant in Folkestone, Kent, where he lives with his two daughters and fiancee.

"We always have lamb over Easter, and my mother-in-law always makes a simnel cake, so we keep it traditional."

But it isn't just the tasty grub and slabs of cake that Sargeant loves about this time of year.

"I really love Easter," he says. "I think it's almost as good as Christmas, because you get those few days off and it's a really nice time.

"Spring, from a chef's point of view, is amazing. You know you're going to have peas and broad beans and spring lamb and asparagus and fresh leeks," he says. "Everything goes from brown to green. It's lovely."

If you fancy trying some new twists on lamb classics, here's Sargeant's favourite roast lamb and a tagine recipe he created for the campaign, plus a new lamb chop recipe from Simply Beef & Lamb.

:: Mini lamb roasting joint with warm spices

(Serves 2-3)

1 x 350-400g lean mini lamb leg or shoulder roasting joint

450g small new potatoes, quartered

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into wedges

4tsp oil

3 fresh bay leaves, torn

Seasonal veg, to serve

For the warm spice mix:

1tsp cumin powder

1tsp turmeric

2tsp ground coriander

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Juice of 1 small orange

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4-5/180-190C. Place the potatoes and onions in the base of a non-stick roasting tin. Drizzle with half the oil and sprinkle over the bay leaves.

Make the spice mix by combining all the ingredients for the mix together with the remaining oil. Place the joint on a chopping board and make several slits over the surface, then brush the spice mix all over. (If time allows, marinate the joint in the spice mix for at least two hours, or overnight, in the fridge.)

Once you've covered the lamb in the marinade, place it on top of the potatoes and roast uncovered for 35-40 minutes (for medium). Cover the meat with foil if browning too quickly. Serve with the potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

:: Lamb tagine with pomegranates

(Serves 6)

675g lean boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2.5cm/1inch cubes

2tbsp oil

3 large shallots or 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2tsp ground ginger

1/4tsp ground turmeric

1/4tsp sweet paprika

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Pinch of saffron threads

450ml hot water

1 cinnamon stick

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3-4 dried apricots, roughly chopped

3tbsp freshly chopped coriander

2tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds

Rice or couscous, to serve

Heat the oil in a large, three-pint-deep ovenproof dish and add the onions, ginger, turmeric, paprika and seasoning. Cook over a low heat for one to two minutes.

Add the meat and garlic, coat in the flavoured oil and cook for four to six minutes until brown all over.

Add the saffron and water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for two hours. The tagine will take about two hours and 10 minutes to cook.

Add the cinnamon stick, thyme, apricots and coriander 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time (so around an hour and 50 minutes into cooking). Cover and continue to cook for the remainder of the cooking time (20 minutes).

Remove the thyme and cinnamon stick from the tagine. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and serve with steamed couscous or rice.

:: Marinated lamb chops with crushed broad beans

(Serves 2)

4 lean lamb cutlets or chops

1tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves

1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely crushed

Juice of 1/2 a small lemon

2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

300g fresh broad beans (podded) or 900g fresh whole broad beans

2tbsp creme fraiche

3tbsp freshly chopped mint

In a shallow bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon juice, oil and seasoning. Spread over the chops on both sides. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Heat a griddle pan until hot. Remove any excess marinade from the chops and cook for six to eight minutes on each side. Alternatively, cook the chops on a prepared barbecue. Transfer the chops to a warm plate.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the beans, reduce the heat and cook for three to four minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until the beans are cool enough to handle, then remove the tough outer layer of each bean.

Return the beans to the pan, heat slightly and crush with a potato masher. Remove from the heat, season and stir through the creme fraiche and mint. Spoon the crushed beans onto a large warm plate, arrange the chops on top, then serve immediately.

:: Mark Sargeant is working with Simply Beef & Lamb to encourage more of us to be adventurous with lamb. For more recipes and videos, visit www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk

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:: Taste The Difference Cranberry And Golden Raisin Hot Cross Buns, £1.35 for four, Sainsbury's

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:: Tesco Finest White Hot Cross Buns, £1.70 for four, Tesco

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:: Luxury Hot Cross Buns, 99p for four, Aldi

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