Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aarti Cooks: Let My People Go Lamb!

I am grateful for all the delicious food God has provided mankind, but I don't think I am ever more grateful than at this time of year, when we celebrate Easter with... LAMB!

Oh man. Lamb! LAMB! Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. I'm sure that for vegetarians and vegans, lamb must be one of the hardest meats to stomach, second only to veal. I won't deny it. When you see a cute little baa-lamb, as my friend Emma Glynn used to call them, with their adorable little faces and delicate springy limbs and pristine white fleeces… oh! How hard it is to imagine what’s next!

When I imagine preparing an Easter feast, I build the menu around lamb, don’t you? And it occurred to me that it’s not just because it’s delicious, or because it’s traditionally a spring delicacy. For me, it’s also because lamb is a powerful symbol of what Easter (and Passover) commemorates.

In the Old Testament, the lowly lamb won the Jewish people their freedom. God promised to deliver the children of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. They were told to slaughter a lamb, and mark their doorways with its blood so that the Angel of death would “pass over” their homes. In the morning, the first-born boy of every Egyptian family was found dead, and God’s message to the Pharoah, “Let my people go!” was finally heeded.

In the New Testament, Jesus becomes that lamb, whose whiter-than-white fleece is the key that unlocks our slavery to the earthly bullsh*t we endure everyday (I mean, the earthly “fiddle-faddle”): money, ego, greed, hatred, pride, war, self-sufficiency, self-worship.

None of us have a white fleece. Mine is stained beyond stained. Can you imagine going to see someone of God’s stature with a stained coat? Heck no! But because Jesus died for us, because His blood is metaphorically over our doorways, it’s as if the angel of death passes over us all, and washes our collective fleeces clean. Now we can all go hang out in God’s court, learn from Him, live fulfilling lives that force us to look not within our selves for enlightenment, but to look up (love God) and look out (love your friends and enemies). Now, the God-shaped hole in our hearts, which we usually fill with stuff -- money, sex, accomplishments, acclaim etc -- has been filled.

Interestingly, Jesus went on to inspire some of the greatest freedom fighters in history: William Wilberforce, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela…

Jesus’ death is brutal, I know. In all honesty, I struggle with having such a bloody act at the crux of my faith. But I am trying to come to peace with it. It’s kinda like looking at that perfect lamb I mentioned at the beginning, and then imagining its impending death. It hurts. It doesn't seem fair. Knowing that Christ rose again is the only thing that makes it better. And for some reason, this Easter, I have wept every time I hear the Passion (the story of Jesus’ last days). I can’t stand it!

So yeah, I can’t look at lamb the same way this year. But being the fat kid that I am, it doesn’t mean I didn’t relish making a small plate of it yesterday! Yum yum! Bren grew up with lamb and mint jelly, but my mum fed us lamb roasted in a sweet, tangy tomato marinade. Mum’s secret ingredient was ketchup, which makes total sense: it’s a masterful mix of molasses and vinegar (in addition to tomatoes), the basis of most barbecue sauces. This week, I tried to re-create the lamb of my childhood without the ketchup and, yippee-kazoo! I think I came darned close. It was so good, that this was what is left of it:

All gone! The marinade results in a tangy, sweet, gorgeously greasy and sticky lamb chop. This might be my favorite recipe so far. It’s on par with the Giddy-Up Steak people. Seriously. It’s that good. Try it.

I served it with some simple sides: a minty fresh fava bean mash, some garlicky fingerling potatoes. If you want to know how to make those, let me know!

Live on in freedom people! He is risen indeed!

"Let My People Go" Lamb Chops!
Tangy Sweet Roasted Lamb Chops in tomato, coriander, fennel and brown sugar

You'll need this stuff:

3/4 tsp coriander seeds
3/4 tsp fennel seeds

5 lamb loin chops
2 tbsp low-fat plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp ginger, grated on a microplane
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (or as much hot sauce as you like. I like it mild, so you may want more)
1 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vegetable/canola oil

1) Toast coriander and fennel seeds in small pan over a medium flame, shaking every 30 seconds, so they don't burn. Once they're giving off a lovely aroma, and have turned a darker tone, remove from the hot pan, and cool completely on a plate. Then throw them into your spice/coffee grinder or your mortar & pestle. Grind to a fine powder.

2) Mix spices with yogurt, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, Sriracha, brown sugar, salt, a healthy few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, apple cider vinegar and oil. Taste and season according to your palate.

3) Cover each chop with the marinade, rubbing into meat and fat. Cover and marinate a few hours or overnight.

4) The next day, preheat your oven to 475 degrees fahrenheit/240 degrees celsius. (I warmed mine to 500 degrees because it's a cold oven). Place your chops, with marinade in a baking dish. Don't let them touch and leave a little room between each chop. Drizzle a little oil over each one.

5) Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees fahrenheit/180 degrees fahrenheit. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until lamb is cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with a little fresh mint of you have it. Eat, enjoy and give thanks for sweet, sweet lamb!


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