Lamb with a honey-mint glaze and Greek style mangetout.
This dish was the product of one of my bratty jealous rages. Upon discovering that a very good friend of mine was to spend her 30th birthday (I shall not name her, for loyalty purposes) in the Greek islands, I decided that I would have my own little Greek party. This dear readers, is my Big Fat Greek Supper.
I once recall going away to Greece with my parents when I was roughly 10 years old. The treatment that forever stuck in my mind with Greek cuisine was open-aired kitchens, where the chefs would always cook in front of the customers. One particular restaurant will forever stick in my mind in Zakynthos where the restaurant had a bouncy castle and I was particularly fascinated with a chef making pizza from scratch in his kitchen.
It was such an open an honest approach to dining that I found familiar. The kitchen has always been a homely environment in my home growing up. To this day the kitchen is definitely my first point of call for a catch up with my mother and often times I would – and still do – sit and observe my mother cooking whilst catching up with the day.
So while Greek food was not a particular plate that crossed my childhood kitchen table, I believe the ethos in which the food is crafted played a vital role in my upbringing. I do have a fond connection to Greek food so when I heard that my dear friend would be spending her birthday in the land of open cooking, I decided to play her at her own game and bring the Greek islands to my own table.
1. Start boiling some new potatoes on the back hob and preheat the oven to 200. I get frustrated with this boisterous carb because I can never time the stupid things right but I figure the longer they boil in the background, the less worry I have with them.
2. On the front hob, part boil a handful of mangetous in a pan, salting the water once the water comes to a boil – mangetous isn’t particularly a Greek archetype but don’t fret (or don’t FRETA… feta cheese… get it?) for they will magically become Greek in a moment – drain them and then throw in a small roasting dish.
3. Scatter a handful of black olives into the roasting dish followed by a table spoon of olive oil. Olives and the mangetous combination provides a battle of subdued sweetness and plump saltiness that will really go well with the fluffy bite of the potatoes.
SIDENOTE: Kings and Queens of Ancient Greece once smeared black olives over their body once anointed as leader of the country. Don’t picture naked royalty whilst eating, however this is quite a regal image to cook with!
4. Slice up small chunks of feta and scatter the white clumps amongst the green and blacks of the mangetous mix and slide into the oven. Feta doesn’t melt unless in extreme heat, however we’re not looking to melt the feta but rather brown it so keep the dish in the oven for as long as it takes to cook your meat.
5. With the mix in the oven and the potatoes still bubbling in the background, heat some garlic oil in a deep pan and tumble small chunks of tender lamb into the heat and allow them to brown. At browning point, drop a big spoonful of honey into the pan followed by a small glug of red cooking wine.
6. Using a wooden spoon scrape the lamb, honey and red wine around the pan. The honey and red wine will hopefully emulsify and coat your lamb in a glossy, conker like substance that looks like a meaty toffee apple.
7. The sweetness of this meal will be quite alarming so the final Greek ingredient to counter this is mint. I’m sure culinary experts would say dried mint would work better here and I’m sure it would but I didn’t have any but I did have some of that jarred mint that your nan would mix with vinegar for roast dinners? I dropped a spoonful of that in and turned the party out with my wooden spoon.
8. By this point the feta in the mangetous should have browned in all the right places and potatoes soft to the prod. Throw everything quite nicely on to the plate and enjoyed every mouthful.
The fresh squidgy sweetness of the tender lamb cuts will compliment the crunch of the mangetous that will have gloops of golden feta and olives clinging to it. You will honestly feel as though you are eating on the horizon of a Greek island without ever needing to take the flight. Just please don’t feel compelled to pick up a plate and smash it.