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Pesto encrusted Lamb Cutlets with Sicilian Eggplant Stew


Spring is sprung,the grass is ris,
I wonder where the birdies is?
The birdies on the wing.
How absurd, the wing is on the bird.”

It must be spring because ever since I woke up early this morning I cannot get this children’s nonsense jingle out of my mind. I have still to discover who originally penned it. I always believed it to be Ogden Nash, but am told on good authority that it was not his work. Perhaps one of our readers can enlighten me?

Well it is spring - and my thoughts are turning to fresh, crispy  salads and southern Mediterranean dishes, so this week’s recipe, Pesto encrusted lamb  cutlets served with Jaime Oliver’s Sicilian Eggplant Stew (Caponata) is a excellent way to get into the spirit of  the season.
In theory this dish, facilitated by the abundance of  fresh basil in the spring, is a wonderful dish to have any time of year. I find it a great choice for entertaining, as you can prepare the cutlets hours before and the caponata can be made even the previous day. All you'll need to do when your friends arrive is cook the lamb, warm the caponata and have enough wine on hand for a long and leisurely meal.

Pesto encrusted Lamb Cutlets

4 lamb loin chops
1 Teaspoon sea salt
1 Teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
3 Tablespoons  Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons butter 
 
1 (8 1/2 ounce) jar  Basil Pesto
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped (plus a few rosemary sprigs)
• Combine basil pesto with chopped rosemary. Season lamb chops with and milled pepper and sea salt. Heat skillet over high heat for one to two minutes; add olive oil, swirling to coat skillet (olive oil should smoke when added to skillet). Sear lamb chops on each side, creating a nice crust. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook to own desired specification. Spread a layer of pesto over each lamb chop and turn in skillet to lightly brown pesto onto chop. Remove lamb chops to platter and keep warm.  
            
Jaime’s recipe
Caponata Sicilian Eggplant Stew

This is a fantastic dish from southern Italy that's eaten as a warm vegetable side dish or a cold antipasto. Sicilians are really proud that it's made with produce from their island. All the different methods of making it are more or less the same - the thing that makes it special, though, is the quality of the eggplants, tomatoes, and vinegar. Always try to get hold of nice firm eggplants with very few seeds - have a look down in your local market to see if you can find different colors. You could even ask your produce clerk to cut one open so you can check it out. Don't be tempted to cut the eggplant chunks too small or they will take on so much oil that they will become heavy. If this happens you don't get to admire the lovely creamy flavor and texture. I've eaten caponata that's been swimming in olive oil, but I much prefer mine to be less oily.

Serves 4

olive oil
2 nice large purple eggplants, cut into large chunks
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stems finely chopped
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked,and drained
a handful of green olives, pits removed
2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb vinegar
5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
optional: 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted 

1.   Get yourself a large pan, pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and place on the heat. Add your eggplant chunks and oregano, season with a little salt, and toss around so the eggplant is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the eggplant in batches.)
2.   When the eggplants are nice and golden on each side, add the onion, garlic, and parsley stems and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it's getting too dry.
3.   Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.
4.   Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper, and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and the almonds if you like

 

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