Nigel Slater's Sunday roast and rhubarb mess recipes (2024)

We tucked into a huge roast of lamb last weekend – two fat racks, crumbed and roasted, their bones entwined. To be honest, I had suspected it wasn't really my sort of thing, and I had to be talked into the whole impressive main course with the stand-up joints of meat and their artfully trimmed bones, but I was proved wrong. The meat was sweet, the fat made flavoursome with mustard and lemon thyme and the bones were robust enough to chew on without splintering.

Midweek, I am likely to choose a lamb fillet for roasting. Quick, sweet, neat. The downside is that there is no bone to chew on. At the weekend I tend to go for the larger joints: a shoulder or a leg, most times cooked with bone in, bringing succulence to the meat as it roasts. The fact that this usually leaves something for the next day is a delicious bonus.

The rack of lamb is a funny little thing and difficult to get right. A few minutes too long in the oven and you have an expensive mistake. But the rack has its advantages. Being the appropriately named "best end" it usually comprises eight ribs, but is often sold cut into smaller, easy-to-manage portions. The most user-friendly lamb cut when hacked into cutlets, the rack takes on a certain intimidating tone when cooked in a whole lump. The crucial thing is to get the heat right inside. The best way to tell is with a meat thermometer: 50C is about right for anice rare finish.

You can, and probably should, give your lamb a tasty crust by spreading something interesting over the fat that surrounds the meat. This gives a large rack of lamb an advantage over cutlets. And the slower roasting time gives us the chance to indulge in some accompaniments that would take too long during the week – such as the potatoes I made at the weekend: small ones, boiled and crushed, then spiked with lemon.

On a sharp note, I found another use for the gorgeous rhubarb around at the moment, cooking the stalks with a little damson gin, then folding them into crushed meringue with whipped cream. Eton mess yes, but somehow less sweet than the usual strawberry variety – especially with the pool of chilled cooking juices poured on top.

Rack of lamb with lemon potatoes

The potatoes are seriously lemony – a tart surprise that works nicely with the fat of the lamb.

Serves 4
For the lemon potatoes:
new potatoes 500g
butter a thick slice
lemon thyme 6 sprigs
juice of a lemon to taste

For the lamb:
fresh white breadcrumbs 120g
lemon thyme 15 small sprigs
8-bone rack of lamb tied as a double rack
Dijon mustard 5tbsp

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Place the lamb in a roasting tin. Put the breadcrumbs in a food processor with the lemon thyme and a little salt and pepper, and blitz. Rub the mustard then the herbed crumbs all over the outside of the lamb.

Roast the lamb for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 180C/gas mark 4 and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. To check for doneness use a meat thermometer. For rare lamb the internal temperature should be 52-55C. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing into cutlets.

Wipe the potatoes and cut them in half lengthways. Warm the butter in a shallow pan and add the potatoes, cut side down. As they brown add the lemon thyme and 200ml water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Using a fork, crush the potatoes slightly, so they are partially broken. Trickle with a little lemon juice to taste. I like them really lemony, but it is a matter of taste. Serve with the roast lamb.

Nigel Slater's Sunday roast and rhubarb mess recipes (2)

Rhubarb and sloe gin mess

This makes more meringues than you will need, but it is difficult to make a smaller quantity. Store any extra in an airtight tin until you need them.

Serves 4
For the meringues:
caster sugar 250g
egg whites 4
a pinch of salt
flaked almonds 2 tbsp

For the rhubarb:
rhubarb 400g
sloe or damson gin 6 tbsp
caster sugar 1 tbsp
double cream 300ml

You will need a baking sheet oiled and lightly sugared or floured, or lined with a sheet of sugared baking parchment. Set the oven at 140C/gas mark 1.

Pour the sugar on to a baking sheet or metal bowl and warm briefly in the oven. Put the egg whites and salt into a bowl and whisk at a moderately high speed to soft peaks. Beat in half the sugar in short stages until glossy and thick. Fold in the remaining sugar in one go, beat very briefly then stop the machine. You should have a thick, upright-standing meringue.

Place large spoonfuls of the mixture on to the baking sheet. Scatter over the flaked almonds, bake for about an hour until crisp, then leave in the oven to cool.

For the rhubarb, cut the stalks into short lengths, place in a large non-reactive saucepan made of enamelled cast iron or stainless steel (but not aluminium), add the sugar and the damson or sloe gin and leave over a moderate heat to simmer until tender – about 10 minutes. Drain the rhubarb and reserve the syrup, allowing it to cool and then chill in the fridge.

Pour the cream into a large, cold bowl (I chill mine in the fridge if I remember) then beat until it starts to thicken. It should sit in soft mounds rather than stiff peaks. Crumble some of the meringues, not too finely, into the cream, letting them sit on top. The ratio of meringue to cream will depend on how sweet you want the result to be. I stop on the creamy side, adding just a couple of meringues. Spoon the rhubarb into the cream then stir carefully, so you leave ribbons of rhubarb and lumps of meringue in the cream .

Spoon into glasses or dishes, then, just as you are about to serve, pour the chilled rhubarb juice around the edge of each dish.

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Nigel Slater's Sunday roast and rhubarb mess recipes (2024)
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