Lamb. What's in a name? Quite a lot actually as I found out just last weekend when the kind people at Marx foods offered me a chance to sample something I'd never heard of before. Silere Alpine Origin Merino Lamb. To be honest, I've never made a study of lamb. I know about chicken, beef, fish certainly, and lots and lots about various vegetables. But lamb is just lamb, right? The only thing I knew about Merino lamb was that I have a drawer full of Merino wool sweaters. As it turns out I was wrong. There's a lot to learn about lamb and I was about to get an education.
I don't eat a great deal of meat, in fact most of the last year I've been on a vegetarian if not vegan diet. Recently however, I've decided to incorporate a bit of meat into my eating, and on occasion, also add some dairy. I've been careful to use grass-fed, naturally-raised meats and only pastured dairy products. Luckily, living here in the heart of California Wine Country, that's not been hard to come by. We're surrounded by ranches and farms. However as it turns out, some of the best lamb in the world doesn't come from here or any where near here. It comes from Middle Earth.
Actually I'm talking about New Zealand, home of Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings and some of the damnedest fine lamb anyone could possibly enjoy. As a screenwriter I'm used to thinking of New Zealand like this:
As a chef I've now learned to think of it like this:
Silere Alpine Origin Merino Lamb, also delicious but in a different way.
Yes, they're ready for their close-up.
You can't get more natural than Alpine grazed meat, and the Merino lamb I found to have a much lighter flavor, not fatty or gamy. Most of the time In cooking lamb, the meat overpowers almost everything which is why people pair it with strong flavors such a mint. The Silere lamb I cooked was leaner, delicate, and the flavors blended perfectly with the Indian spices I used. I decided that we should share this lamb with friends and who better than the people who make CocoaPlanet chocolate. I knew Anne and Jeff would be great lamb judges as they both have excellent palates. It was the prefect excuse for a dinner party, not that I need much encouragement. I'm always ready to cook!
Cooking the Silere lamb was the easy part, as one does not want to do too much so that the meat stays tender and juicy. I could then devote some thought to a proper sauce which turned out to be a Sikandari Raan, a delicately flavored traditional sauce with a North Indian / Afghan influence. The sauce is very easy to make and can definitely be made ahead. Since the lamb cooks up quickly this is a great time saver. The perfect company dinner.
Silere Alpine Grazed Merino Lamb In Sikandari Sauce
Here's What You Need:
4 Silere Alpine Grazed Merino Lamb Loins
1 and 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili
4 tbs coconut oil, or other vegetable oil
4 green cardamom pods
3 black cardamom pods
A 2 inch stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
4 medium onions thinly sliced
2 tsp ground coridaner
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 cup of yogurt
Here's What To Do:
Put on your onion goggles and start slicing the onions...
Set them aside.
In a kadhai or skillet heat 4 Tbs of coconut or vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot, toss in the star anise, green and black cardamom pods, the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick.
Saute the spices for one minute. They'll start to puff up a bit, then toss in your sliced onions.
Cook the onions until they're translucent and soft, then add in the Kashmiri Chili powder.
Add in the ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric and tomato paste.
Saute everything until the oil starts to separate from the sauce. Add in the salt.
When everything is well mixed, remove the bay leaf and put everything else into a blender or food processor.
Grind it up really well you want to avoid any hard pieces of spice left over. You can pour it through a strainer or cheese cloth to prevent this.
Set your sauce aside. If you are going to use it later or the next day, keep it covered in the fridge.
Before you cook your lamb make sure to bring it to room temperature.
I found that the best way to cook this lamb was to sear it in hot hot hot cast iron and then finish it in the oven. One wants the internal temperature to be about 125 degrees for medium rare lamb.
Salt and pepper the lamb loins on both sides.
Place an empty, heavy, cast iron pan on the fire and heat that baby up.
When it's hot, hot, hot, lay the lamb loins in it fat side down. Cook them for about 4 minutes.
After about 4 minutes, turn the loins over and cook them on the other side for another four minutes.
After that take the whole pan and put it into the oven for another 10 minutes or so to finish.
After you take the meat out of the oven let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Slice the meat into medallions.
Brush a layer of the sikandari sauce across one side of the plate, and lay the medallions on it.
I served this dish with Basmati rice with whole spices, Indian spinach and corn.
This is the lamb, that a Hobbit would enjoy and you know how much they love to eat!!!
Marx Food Silere Lamb Contest I'd really appreciate it!
I'd like to thank the Becca Lee and all great folks at Marx Foods and Silere Alpine Origin Lamb for allowing me this amazing tasting experience, thanks for spoiling me. Coming up next, great sides to serve with great lamb follow along on Twitter @kathygori