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Roast Rack of Lamb with Cocoa Vinegar & Red Wine Reduction

April 5, 2010

Roast Rack of Lamb with Cocoa Vinegar & Red Wine Reduction… served with Jerusalem Artichoke Purée, Griddled Leeks and Caramel Cardamom Carrots – What a mouthful! How does one abbreviate that kind of a dish?

I think it’s fair to say that most of my cooking is not exactly pretentious, but every now and then I do like to pitch something a little more ‘up there’. It’s a little more adventurous in flavour combinations, I have tried to explore a new ingredient, and tried to have a shot at plating up (keep the sniggers to yourselves, please!).

Lets me start by explaining the cocoa vinegar. This was given to me by some good friends and I instantly spotted a challenge. Obviously people have cooked savoury dishes with various types of chocolate, but not I.

I first tried it on its own and, to be quite frank, was not impressed. It lacked the richness of a well aged Balsamic and the cocoa , far from being at either extreme of chocolate flavours, was very much an earthy undertone.  A real lose-lose. So the thinking cap went on and after a couple of surprisingly nice salad dressings, I attempted a meat dish. Lamb seemed the obvious first choice.

And how it was a good first choice! Reducing the vinegar down to a sweet, deep sauce with the little drops of cocoa flavour from the nibs was a delight – the lamb seemed to enjoy it immensely, too. So, this is the third attempt and I think it’s now worthy of a write-up.

The rack of lamb was also a novelty; I have never cooked one. Being a raving lamb fan, I’m not sure I could tell you why either… possibly it’s just that it looks far too dainty a cut for me. Whatever the reason, I am delighted to say that I found the effort-to-reward ratio a great plus. It’s pretty easy to cook, a naturally flavourful cut and it looks fabulous. I think the real secret to this piece of lamb is to get a nice salty, crispy skin to help heighten the lamb’s flavour.

This served two of us with, small, seconds.


For the Lamb

  • Rack of lamb – I couldn’t tell you the weight but their were 8 ribs worth.
  • Rosemary, a big sprig
  • Garlic, two cloves
  • Truffle oil, just enough
  • Smoke Maldon Salt
  • Red wine, glass of
  • Cocoa Balsamic Vinegar, about 1/3 of the quantity of wine

For the Leeks

  • 6 Baby leeks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Carrots

  • 3 Carrots
  • Butter, roughly 30g
  • Brown Sugar, roughly 30g
  • Black cardamom, two bashed pods
  • Cayenne pepper, a pinch

For the Artichoke Purée

  • 300g Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Single Cream
  • Butter
  • Lemon Juice

Get Cooking

I’ll treat each part separately, so it’s up to you to work out timings. Remember that the lamb will only take about 20-25mins tops for rare to medium. (I will, in good time, split the sides up into seperate recipes)

For the Lamb

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with a little salt, then add the rosemary and a little truffle oil. Pound until you end up with a thick, green marinade, adding a little more oil if necessary. Season well.

Crisscross the skin side of the lamb with a very sharp knife and rub in a large pinch of smoked seal salt. Rub a little truffle oil over the meat side before smearing on the rosemary and garlic marinade. Leave this, skin side down, for as long as you can, ideally 4 or 5 hours or over night in the fridge.

Now heat a heavy based frying pan. It must be searing hot. Sear all the meat before placing the rack skin side down in the pan, sizzling it for a minute or two, and then into the oven.

The lamb should take between 15 and 25 minutes depending on how you like it done. Test for doneness by pinching, prodding, thermometer or dryness, it’s up to you but you may find this site handy for cooking times based on weight: meatmatters.

I’ve found a good rule of thumb for resting meat seems to be let it sit (under foil and/or a tea towel if it’s small or you’re worried about it getting too cold) for about 50% of the cooking time. This give the flesh a chance to relax and reabsorbs some of the juices, the stuff left on the plate should go straight into whatever sauce you’ve made.

For the Sauce

Put the wine in a wide sauce pan with a large, torn up sprig of rosemary and reduce it down to about half of its original volume. Then add the balsamic vinegar and reduce it by a further third or so, you should have quite a nice, rich reduction; not thick and sickly sweet as can so often be the case. However, if it is too savoury, add a pinch of sugar. You’re not going to smother the meat in this, so you can afford for it to be quite rich indeed.

For the Leeks

These guys are easy-peasy, lemon squeezy! After cleaning and trimming them, put the leeks in a piece of tupperware that will hold them, pour in a little olive oil and lots of S and P. Mix them about so they’re all covered and they’re good to go.

These only take about 3 to 5 minutes to cook, so last minute is good. Heat a griddle pan until it is smoking, place and gently press down on the leeks. Now, leave them for two minutes; if you want the (‘cool’) caramelised griddle marks, just don’t move them. Turn them over and repeat.

For the Carrots

I love these carrots; inspired by my uncle’s dill and mandarin caramel carrots, these are quick, easy and interesting. The tobacco-like notes of the black cardamom are really good along side the light caramel.

Peel and cut up the carrots (I did little sticks… or thick julienne to be poncey!). Cook them until al dente in some salted boiling water.

Meanwhile, heat the butter with the sugar and cardamom in a pan. I tend to add a little water once caramelised, too, to make a syrup, especially if the carrots are allowed to cool; this stops the caramel turning to rock as soon as you add the cold carrots. After adding the carrots, just turn them in the syrup until coated.

For the Artichoke Purée

Another quick and easy one! Peel and dice the artichoke. Boil them in some salted water until you can crush them with the back of a fork. Drain.

Add some cream and butter and use a blender or stick blender to whizz them up. I often find that running the purée through a fine sieve makes a world of difference to the finished consistency. Season and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 10:12 am

    That’s a mighty leg of lamb! I like the Jerusalem artichoke purée. I usually make soup out of it but a purée sounds like a great accompaniment for a winter dish.

    I’m intrigued by this cocoa balsamic. I wonder if it can be used to macerate strawberries and serve them with creme fraiche or a good vanilla ice cream.

    • April 9, 2010 9:15 am

      I LOVE the idea of the strawberries in the cocoa vinegar… I’m going to have to try it! I’ll let you know how it turns out :)

      The artichokes work really well puréed – in fact, I reckon with a little sweet roasted garlic, they would be really really fab!

  2. Lost permalink
    April 7, 2010 8:25 pm

    Great blog, great recipes, great read. The cocoa vinegar sounds cool and the pigs trotter rillettes has me hankering for some.

    • April 9, 2010 9:13 am

      Hi Lost In The Larder – you are most generous with your comments! The cocoa vinegar is actually a delight, I can highly recommend it – the pic is a link to the hotel chocolat site. As for the pigs trotters… I need to try stuffing them next! Nom Nom Nom


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