Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Easter Lamb Recipe and Rosemary Flavoured Liqueurs

Despite its Mediterranean roots Rosemary survives well in my garden and its stiff green sprigs have battled against being frozen with frost and buried under snow. It's a herb that I use a lot and I'm grateful that it has lasted throughout the winter – unlike my sage which has given up. I add it to steamed courgettes in the summer, to stuffing and to joints of lamb for its lovely aroma.

I always associate Rosemary with Remembrance but folklore links it to weddings and love charms. According to legend Rosemary was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite as she rose from the sea and its name actually means ‘dew of the sea’ - (ros is the Latin for 'dew' and marinus is Latin for 'sea'). It's so named because it needs little or no water and can survive on just the humidity of a sea breeze.

I was surprised to find out that Rosemary is used in Liqueurs – I had thought they would be a little too powerful, too medicinal but they are said to have sweet camphor, resin and eucalyptus notes. Apparently there is a growing demand for herb infused alcoholic drinks. In the UK, Vermouth, Campari, Benedictine and Chartreuse have all enjoyed popularity in the past – all of which are infused with herbs.

Two well known Rosemary Liqueurs are Marie Brizard's Romarin Essence (30%) and Janot's Romarin (24%). Monin also produce a Rosemary Syrup that has just been released for sale here in the UK: Monin's Sirop Romarin. Both liqueurs and syrups can be used in cocktails (especially in gin and vodka based ones), mocktails, teas, smoothies, lemonades and in cooking (enhancing lamb and pork dishes, for example, and as a vinaigrette for salads and starters).

Has anyone tried a Rosemary Liqueur or rosemary cocktail? This is something that is definitely on my to do list.

I will be using Rosemary for my Easter Lamb this year but the recipe I have decided to make is a slow cooked Lamb Shank from Abruzzo in Italy where lamb is the traditional dish.

Abruzzo lies at the centre the Italian peninsula facing the Adriatic, and is bordered on the east by the Adriatic and on the west by the Apennines, making it is one of the most mountainous regions in Italy. In the past, the region of Abruzzo was well known for the transumanza, the migratory movement of sheep principally south to the region of Puglia during the cold winter months.

Abruzzi Lamb

1 tbsp olive oil
2 lamb shanks
3 oz smoked bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
½ pint lamb or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp brown sugar
2 – 3 sprigs rosemary
8 oz cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

Set the Slow Cooker to Low. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the lamb until browned. Remove the lamb and set aside. Add the bacon and onion to the pan and fry until browned. Add the garlic and cook for 2 mins. Stir in the flour and mix in the stock. Add the tomato puree, sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Spoon the lamb into the Slow Cooker, pour over the hot stock mixture and then add the whole tomatoes. Cover with the lid and cook on Low for 8 – 10 hours. Serve with pasta.

Wine Pairing:

Great with Chateau Roc de Segur 2007 – this is a rich ruby purple colour in the glass Roc de Segur will benefit from a couple of hours decanting to do it full justice. This is a lovely wine and a benchmark for good honest claret.

It has flavours of rich blackberry cassis, ripe raspberries, cedar and spice with a hint of black cherry, herbs and earthiness. The tannins are velvety and supple; the wine is very well balanced and has a lovely long finish. Roc de Segur is an excellent food wine that pairs brilliantly with roast duck, venison, pheasant, lamb, beef and rich casseroles.