Paul Flynn: A lovely springtime barbecue feast
During this tantalising weather, fire up the barbecue for delicious lamb chops and sides of beetroot and new potatoes
Lamb chops with sweet and sour onions and raisins. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
I had an emergency visit to the dentist last week. I woke up one morning with a wobbly tooth and a chipped filling. I was like a fella who had been in an altercation. A check-up determined that the tooth had to go. Apparently it was only a baby tooth and I shouldn’t be worried.
Tell that to the hole in my mouth, I said, as I felt the last vestiges of my youth pulled from me. I was diagnosed as a teeth grinder, too, brought on by anxiety. “Sure what’s there to be anxious about,” I replied smartly.
I’ve more time on my hands than I’ve ever had, except perhaps for when I was studying for my Leaving Cert. However, I am getting used to the routine. That I’m finding scary in itself. It’s like being retired but without a pension.
As with everybody else, the cooking at home is constant. We are sitting down for more meals as a family than ever before. The moods around the table ebb and flow. I acutely avoid information overload as sometimes I think my frazzled brain will just pop out of my head like a piece of toast from a toaster.
The weather has been tantalising – the perfect spring – so I’ve been using the barbecue as much as possible. I need no encouragement. Perhaps deep down it makes me feel more manly, but I just love the ease of it.
I cooked these lamb chops, rubbed and adorned with nothing but salt. The lick of the flames did the rest, the fat crisp and charred in an almost primal way.
This week’s dishes are meant to go together: the sweet and sour of the soft onions complements the earthiness of the home-roasted beetroot. If you can at all, roast your own beetroot. If not, I won’t judge you. The feta, yogurt and mint dressing gives a delicious piquancy, and the seeds provide pings of interest. The hot herbiness of the spuds gives life to the chops. It’s a lovely springtime barbecue feast.
Those of us with gardens are lucky. We can sit, eat, and watch everything blossom as the year ticks on. Is it me or do the birds seem louder? Perhaps they are singing for us.
LAMB CHOPS WITH SWEET AND SOUR ONIONS AND RAISINS
1 x eight-bone rack of lamb, cut into chops.
For the onion sauce:
2 large onions , peeled and finely sliced
A sprig of thyme
1tbs brown sugar
2tbs red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1. Cook the onions gently in the butter and thyme for about 15 minutes in a covered pot, making sure they don’t take on any colour. This will ensure a sweet, thyme-scented butteriness.
2. Add the brown sugar, vinegar and raisins.
3. Cook for another few minutes until thick and syrupy, season and set aside.
4. To cook your chops: set your barbecue to a high heat, then turn down a little.
5. Season the chops well and place them on the barbecue.
6. Do not move them for five minutes, then turn them over.
7. After another three minutes try and balance the chops on their fatty side to get the fat crisp. They won’t take much longer, depending how you like them.
8. Turn off the barbecue and allow them to rest for a few minutes in the coolest spot.
9. Warm the onions and serve the chops on top along of them along with your two lovely salads.
A LOVELY BEETROOT SALAD
4 large raw beetroot, scrubbed
250g natural yogurt
100g feta cheese (one packet)
1tbs mint jelly
2 mandarins, peeled and segmented.
50g sunflower or pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan (I use a mix)
Some sprigs of dill
A drizzle of olive oil
1. Set your oven to 150 degrees, or equivalent.
2. Wrap the beetroot in foil and bake for about two hours, until it is soft. You can test with a knife.
3. Peel the beets and cut into chunks. Season and place in a pretty bowl.
4. Blend the yogurt, feta and mint jelly together and spoon over the beetroot.
5. Scatter the mandarins over the beetroot, along with the seeds and dill. Finally, give everything a lick of olive oil and it’s ready to serve.
GREEN AND PERKY SPUDS
1kg new potatoes, cooked, cooled and peeled, if you fancy
75ml sunflower oil
Juice of half a lemon
1tsp onion seeds (nigella), toasted in a dry pan (optional)
Half a red chilli, very finely diced
Lots of chopped fresh mint
Sea salt and pepper
1. Whisk the lemon juice into the oil, along with the salt and pepper.
2. Add the potatoes, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
3. Mix well and place into another pretty bowl.