SINCE I shared my joy at the arrival of fresh summer herbs in this column, I’ve been trying some new recipes that make the most of these bright, fresh ingredients.
In my kitchen at home I have created a flavoursome herb crumb coating for the best of the season’s meat and fish. I’ve used tarragon to make herb crumbs because of its distinctive flavour and depth. You can identify tarragon by its long, narrow, tapering leaves that often drop at the end.
When you’re preparing tarragon for this recipe, you’re best to wash it gently then strip the leaves from the stalks. Once you’ve mastered this recipe you can adopt the same method to make different herb crusts with your own favourite summer herbs.
For the lamb
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. For this recipe I have coloured the lamb necks on the barbecue because it gives them a wonderful smoky flavour, but you can cook them in the oven if you prefer.
If you do use the barbecue, place the lamb necks on the grill until they are lightly browned all over. Alternatively, take an oven-proof, heavy-bottomed pan and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the lamb necks and allow them to sizzle and spit, turning occasionally until they are lightly browned all over.
In a separate heavy-bottomed pan, add a splash of olive oil and sweat the chopped onion, carrots and red pepper.
Add the garlic, bouquet garni and tomatoes and continue to sweat. Then add the white wine, tomato purée and stock and bring to the boil. Add the necks and continue to reduce the liquid down.
Transfer the pan to the oven at 180C/Gas Mark 4 and braise the meat for 3-4 hours until the meat flakes off the bone easily.
For the tapenade
Blend the garlic, capers, olives and sherry vinegar in a food processor, adding just enough olive oil until it forms a paste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the herb crust
Put the bread and chopped tarragon into a blender and blitz to fine crumbs. The breadcrumbs will take on a lovely green colour. Tip them into a shallow dish and set aside.
For the salad
Chop the carrots, fennel and radish and arrange in a small bowl with the lettuce leaves. Garnish with podded peas.
Remove from the oven and pass off the liquid, reducing by half. Remove the lamb necks from the pan. You’ll then need to bone the lamb, removing the meat carefully from either side. Season and, using a pastry brush, coat the top of the necks with Dijon mustard. Dip the coated side into the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Then place the necks under the grill for a few minutes.
Plate the lamb, and dress with a spoon of the cooking liquid, the tapenade and fresh salad.