This is a dish the components of which can be made ahead of time. In fact, I remember on one occasion preparing this – the courgette salad, and the marination of the lamb – for the Chief Taster, and our son to eat while the Chief Correspondent and I were out at a jewellery-making course. I’d thought it was a good bet because this meal is a family favourite, and all that remained to do was the frying of the lamb steaks.
We expected to arrive back to find the two men of the family in high spirits, after a slap up meal. Instead we found two very grumpy-looking males – but it wasn’t the fault of the lamb. They both had plastic bags over their hair having discovered earlier that our son’s hair was crawling with lice, and applied an anti-bug shampoo!
Because leg steaks come from the leaner part of the animal and have a fair amount of muscle on them they can be a bit tough so it’s important to marinate them first (and you can freeze them in the marinade in plastic bags).
You also need to make sure you allow time for resting after you’ve cooked them (you can cook the courgettes while they rest if you are experienced and can do it quickly). But the upside is that they do have a lot of flavour.
If you feel you need carbohydrate (and believe me, if you have a nine year old son, you do), serve with new potatoes or Jersey Royals. Or a very successful alternative is to make some couscous (200g/just under 8 oz) by covering it with 250ml/1 cup boiling stock made with a stock cube, and leaving it for about five minutes. Then you can add in the dressed courgettes with the feta.
The lamb really needs the courgettes and feta – don’t try and substitute any other kind of accompaniment – the mint, the salty feta, the olives… they are all designed to bring out the best of the lamb.
On the other hand, the warm courgette and feta salad is a very good stand alone accompaniment – with other kinds of lamb, of course, but also in its own right. And it’s vegetarian… and vegan.
Recipe for Lamb Leg Steaks And Courgettes With Feta
Serves 4 (don’t try to do this for more – there isn’t room in the frying pan)
Ingredients for the lamb and marinade
- 4 x 175g lamb leg steaks
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus an extra glug for frying
- 6 tbsp orange juice
- 3 tbsp honey (lavender or thyme is nice)
- 2 tbsp red vermouth (Martini), or marsala… in extremis you can deglaze very effectively with balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- salt and Indonesian long pepper
Ingredients for the warm courgette salad
- 500g/1 lb courgettes (3 or 4 courgettes)
- 200g/8 oz Greek feta (not the Danish stuff), crumbled
- 1 tsp crushed, dry fried cumin seeds
- about sixteen pitted black olives (NB NOT the type in brine… or if you can only find brine, go HERE for a much better alternative. If you use black olives in olive oil use some of the oil in the dressing)
- 2 tbsps pine nuts
Ingredients for the dressing for the warm courgette salad
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar
- about eight mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp of smoked salt
Method for the warm courgette salad
- Take the feta out of the fridge to warm it up a bit.
- Cut the courgettes into coins about ½ cm/¼ inch thick.
- If you have time, put the sliced courgettes into a colander and sprinkle them with salt – leave half an hour. This method of getting the water out of them will result in crispier courgettes in the end, rather than soggier ones.
- Dab at the courgettes with kitchen paper to dry them a bit.
- Toss them in the cumin and two tbsp of olive oil.
- Fry the courgettes about five minutes each side. Halfway through frying the second side add the pine nuts. Remove the lot to a bowl.
- Add the dressing (the last five ingredients), and the feta and keep warm.
- Chop the black olives, and add them to the salad.
Method for the lamb leg steaks
- Marinate the lamb in the marinade ingredients.
- In the same frying pan that you used for the courgettes add some olive oil – make sure it’s good and hot
- Fry the lamb on each side (keep the marinade) for five or six minutes.
- Leave to rest, covered with foil for about five minutes. NB don’t skip this step, it’s an important step in keeping the meat tender.
- Add the marinade to the frying pan together with any juices from the resting lamb, deglaze with a slosh marsala (or vermouth, or balsamic vinegar) to make some rich, silky gravy.