This is the age of the foodie. The amount of emerging talent is quite fascinating but there is only really one person who can get me truly excited about cooking, who can make any ingredient sound like king. Valentine Warner burst onto our screens in 2008 with his seasonal ingredients programme ‘what to eat now’ and wowed us all with his cheeky charm and utter passion for fantastic ingredients.
But it’s not just watching his adventures that gets me excited, it’s his way with language and the way he describes the dishes in his books. I have all three but was recently sent the newest ‘The Good Table’ by publisher Mitchell Beazley for winning a Twitter competition. From the outside the book is enticing, the graphic simple yet endearing. I also love the title, although I wasn’t sure what it meant until I read in the foreword. I’m glad the polisher let Val role with it.
Inside the book is literally jam packed with my favourite kind of recipes. Bold, simple and packed with flavour. I love the way that Val describes his foodie adventures as a child. Sitting at the kitchen table measuring the food out between him and his brother to ensure that they both got exactly the same amount. I also love the red herring recipe (not literally red herring, see the recipe for black toast, boiled egg and black tea) – his wit shines through and it almost makes me want to try it!
Luckily I had the sense not to and went for the seared lamb neck with garlic sauce and his recipe for a good roastie. I’ve only ever slow cooked lamb before so this was a good excuse to try something new. It was extremely easy and totally and utterly DELICIOUS. The knife slid through the lamb effortlessly and it literally melted in the mouth.
The roasties were delicious too – a nice addition of flour and rosemary, something I’ve never done before. The goose fat is very naughty though so I’ll save that for special occasions.
I’m sure you’ll be seeing a few more of Vals recipes on here over the coming months. The Huevos rancheros has particularly caught my eye for a lazy Sunday brunch.
Ingredients – serves 2
2 thick lamb neck fillets (about 250 – 300g each)
2 good tablespoons finely chopped thyme leaves
2 good tablespoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
flaked sea salt and black pepper
a little olive oil
2 large garlic bulbs
150ml white wine
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
100ml double cream
flaked sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan / 200 degrees c / gas 6
1. Bake the garlic bulbs on a baking tray for about 30-40 minutes. They should be totally squidgy with a golden sticky ooze beginning to leak from them. Allow the garlic to cool, or bravely attempt to peel them when hot – it is easier to extract the flesh. To do this, flake off the outside skin, separate each clove from the bulb and squeeze the innards into a small saucepan. Mash the roasted garlic with a fork and heat with butter until it has melted.
2. Now add the wine, vinegar and sugar. Let them simmer away gently until the wine has reduced by two-thirds. Add the cream, bring the sauce up to the faintest bubbling and turn off the heat. Puree the sauce with a stick blender, if you’d like it more refined. Season with salt.
3. Put a frying pan on a medium heat and let it get very hot. Meanwhile, trim the outside lamb neck of any particularly tough fat or sinew and discard. Mix the thyme and rosemary leaves with a good amount of salt and a very heavy grinding of black pepper. Roll the lamb gently in the seasoned herbs and rub all over with a little oil.
4. Add the lamb to the hot frying pan, where it should start frying immediately. Brown the fillets on one side, then turn down the heat so that they do not get burnt and cook for another 4 minutes on the same side. Turn over for another 5 minutes. The lamb should be nicely pink inside, but not raw. Allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes before slicing it on a slant at a half-finger thickness. If you want a cooky’s perk, take an end – just the one!