American inspiration for Sussex lamb

I’m in a bit of a quandary. We’ve got a couple of American boys coming to stay with us from Sussex County, New Jersey, on a school exchange trip and I want to cook them a traditional roast dinner while they’re here.

As lamb’s not very common in the USA, I had thought it would be a good opportunity to roast a leg of Southdown lamb from Sussex county, Great Britain, but after a flurry of transatlantic emails from their mother it transpires that they “don’t eat much red meat”. How do I interpret that? I could roast one of our turkeys, but that would feel like I’m serving up a Thanksgiving meal in the middle of an English summer. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to do the lamb, let alone serve it with this Avgolemono sauce. Admittedly, Avgolemono is characteristically East Mediterranean rather than traditionally English and if it you think it sounds a bit Greek you’d be right as it translates as “egg lemon”. You whisk lemon juice into beaten egg and then whisk in the hot cooking liquid but the temperature of the liquid must be well below boiling point so that the egg won’t coagulate. The sauce is usually used with fish, lamb, vegetables (especially artichokes) and as a flavouring in casseroles and soups which it also thickens. Serving it with lamb is an unusual combination. but the acidity of the lemon counteracts the richness of the lamb.

For a cooling summer soup and a means of using up those surplus cucumbers, try this chilled cucumber and watercress soup. Unlike packet jelly, this raspberry jelly is easy to make and uses the pulp of the raspberries, so while it is not clear the intense flavour is sensational. You can also control the amount of sugar that goes into it and I could probably even serve it to the Americans as long as they don’t mistake it for jam and spread it on their toast.

cookery starterChilled Cucumber and Watercress Soup

Serves 6

1 onion

250g (9oz) potato (peeled weight)

1 clove of garlic

25g (1oz) butter

900ml (1½ pints) water

150ml (1/4 pint) single cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cucumber

1 bunch of watercress

Chop the onion and crush the garlic. Sweat them in the butter until the onion goes translucent. Chop the potato and add this with the salt, pepper and water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potato is cooked. Whiz with a stick blender or in a food processor then sieve the resulting liquid. Add the cream and chill. Remove any coarse stalks from the watercress and chop the cucumber. Process the watercress and cucumber in a blender with the soup. Serve garnished with watercress leaves.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Broad Beans and Avgolemono Sauce

Serves 8

1 leg of lamb

1 bulb of garlic

Bunch of rosemary and thyme

1 onion

1 glass of red wine

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas mark 6). Slice the onion. Bash the garlic up a bit and make a layer of the onion, garlic and herbs in the roasting tray. Place the lamb on it, rub it with a little olive oil and season with salt and ground black pepper. Roast the lamb for 15min to each pound plus another 15min (more if you like your lamb well done). Start with the oven at 200C for the first 15min then reduce the oven to 180C (350F, Gas mark 4) for the remainder of the cooking time and remember to give it at least 20min to rest before carving. Remove any excess fat from the roasting tray and deglaze it with a glass of red wine making sure you get all the flavours released from the bottom of the tray and from the herbs and garlic. Strain and serve with the meat.

For the sauce:

900g (2lbs) broad beans

450ml (3/4 pint) chicken stock

Juice of 1 lemon

5 egg yolks

Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water until tender, then refresh under cold water. Remove the outer skins of the beans and discard them. While the lamb is resting, bring the chicken stock to the boil and in a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and lemon juice. Pour the boiling stock over the yolks/lemon then return the liquid to the saucepan and return it to the heat. Cook gently until the sauce thickens, but it must not boil as this will curdle the egg. Be patient as it will take time to thicken. Immediately the sauce thickens, strain it into a clean bowl and add the broad beans. Slice the lamb and serve it with the jus and the sauce.

cookery dessert

Jelly and Ice Cream

Serves 4

450g (1lb) fresh raspberries

150ml (1/4 pint) water

50g (2oz) caster sugar

10g (1/4 oz) leaf gelatine

A tub of the best vanilla ice-cream

To make the jelly, place 350g (12oz) of the raspberries into a saucepan with the water and sugar. Soften the gelatine in cold water. Simmer the raspberries for 1min then melt the gelatine into them. Whiz up in a blender, sieve the mixture and allow to cool and set. In tall glasses, sundae dishes or knickerbocker variety alternate scooped layers of ice-cream and jelly. Decorate with the remaining raspberries, wafer biscuits, mini umbrellas, flowers or whatever takes your fancy.

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