Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back from Rarotonga

Ah, Rarotonga. The part of the island we were staying in was like the nicest possible New Zealand seaside retreat, only with wonderful warmth and better sand and water. The local superette, a few minutes’ walk away, had proper cone icecreams and fresh tropical fruit, and the owner of the big house gave us more. I ate masses of it – golden pawpaw, pink guavas, pink passionfruit, pink watermelon, and little green bananas cut from the tree in the garden (forgot to photograph those). With the Palm Grove breakfast the first three days, there were home-made muffins as well...

For the three nights on my own, I had the restaurant barbecue (broadbill steak), 
then cooked a nice little ribeye steak with local veges, and a kind of pasta with tinned salmon (to buy fresh fish, you have to time it right).

After that I was with a family group, and they wanted to eat out, so I happily tagged along. Fresh local tuna, seared as part of a salad nicoise, with thin crunchy local beans. Broadbill in coconut curry. Delicious. Marinated fresh fish (I don’t know what kind) at the Friday night dinner with drums, song and dance, up the mountain. At the wedding itself, a whole roast pig, basted with seawater as it cooked. The last night we had the tuna Bruce and his mates caught, barbecued for us to eat with the usual generous Sunday night salad array at the restaurant over the road. 
By the time I got back, I really fancied some meat. So for dinner with neighbours on Friday, I splashed out on a small lamb fillet. 
         The recipe was a summer one I used to make for Harvey, from a great book his mother Betty gave us. The original has spinach leaves, but I used the new crop of lettuce from the garden - oakleaf, red cos and freckles.

Roasted lamb fillet on a young leaf salad with garlic dressing 
(Adapted from Homes and Gardens Cookbook, Brian Glover, 1996)

About 300-350g lamb fillet (the Silver Fern pack at the supermarket is 340g)
1/2 tsp whole cummin seeds (though I used ground cummin)
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds (I had these in the garden!)
black pepper, salt
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Dry-toast the coriander and cummin in a small pan over a low heat for a few minutes, then grind coarsely (I use my cleaned-out coffee grinder to do this). 
Wash and dry the fillet and roll it in the ground spices. Grind over some black pepper. (You can do this first part a few hours in advance if you want to - the lamb will pick up more flavour.)
Preheat oven to 200C (fan forced if you have it).
Heat olive oil in a large heavy pan till hot, then brown the fillet on all sides.
Place in a small roasting tin, season with salt, and cook for - well, it depends how rare you want it. It should be beautifully rosy inside when it's cut and served. For me this took about 20 minutes.
Turn oven down to 190C and leave on for garlic (see below).
Cover with foil and leave to rest while you do everything else.

Assortment of young salad leaves
2-3 Tbsp of green herb sprigs (I used sorrel, parsley and chives)
1 plump head of garlic
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp French mustard (Dijon is good)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp plain yoghurt
black pepper, salt

Wash and dry the leaves and herbs (a spinner is good). 
As soon as you take out the meat and turn down the oven, trim the hard top off the garlic, sit it in a piece of foil, dribble 1 Tbsp of olive oil over it, wrap it up and put it in the oven to roast (about 30 minutes).
When it's soft, carefully squeeze all the garlic out of its skin into a blender or small bowl, witht he oil.
Mash it to a puree, then beat in the other 2 Tbsp oil, the mustard, and the vinegar or lemon jiuce. Just before you're ready to serve, add the yoghurt. Taste and add salt and pepper as required.
Lay the salad out on a large shallow serving plate and drizzle over the dressing.
Slice the lamb thinly and arrange it down the centre.
We had tiny potatoes with this, but crusty bread or pilaf rice or brown rice are all good too. You can scatter toasted pine nuts over it too (but at $85 a kilo I usually leave them out). Instead I threw in a few strips of yellow pepper to look pretty. This was taken after our first serving, I get too hungry and forget. And it's a bit fuzzy, I'd had rather more pinot than usual. But believe me, it was good.

1 comment:

Alexia said...

ohhh that all looks so delicious! fresh fruit for breakfast is almost the best thing about being on a Pacific island - and the lovely warmth...