In France, as in Spain, we use liquorice root quite a lot. In fact, I remember as a young boy buying liquorice root and chewing it on my way to school, then keeping it in my bag during lessons and getting it out again to chew on my way back home – great memories! In this recipe, I use it to skewer the lamb rump to infuse the meat while cooking, without the flavour becoming overpowering. The lamb is also really good served with very thin strips or ‘tagliatelle’ of courgette sautéed in olive oil with a little garlic and chilli and finished with some chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Preparation time : 10 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking and overnight marinating
Cooking time : 20 minutes
1 small stick of liquorice root, about 10cm/4in long x 1cm/½in thick
4 small lamb rumps, about
125ml/4fl oz/½ cup olive oil
20g/¾oz unsalted butter
200ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup Lamb Stock or Chicken Stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
steamed Swiss chard, to serve
Put the liquorice in a small bowl of warm water and leave for about 1 hour until it is soft enough to bend easily. Working from the centre of the root towards the end, peel away the outer layer, reserving the peelings. Cut the root lengthways into quarters, leaving the long pieces to dry on a plate.
Put the lamb in a shallow bowl and pour over the oil, then add a generous pinch of pepper and the liquorice peelings. Stir to coat, then cover each rump tightly with cling film, pressing the cling film directly onto the lamb so that there is no air inside. Leave to marinate in the fridge overnight to help to tenderize the meat.
The next day, preheat the oven to 140°F/275°F/gas 1. Remove the lamb from the marinade and, using a skewer, make incisions through the centre of each piece of meat. Insert a liquorice root piece into each one, pressing them into the lamb.
Heat an ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the lamb and cook for about 3–4 minutes on all sides, adding the butter when cooking the final side. Transfer the lamb, still in the pan, to the oven and cook for 5–8 minutes, then turn the oven up to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and cook for a further 4 minutes until cooked but still slightly pink in the centre. Transfer the lamb to a warm plate, cover with foil and leave to rest while you make the gravy.
Return the pan that you cooked the lamb in to a high heat and when the juices are bubbling, add the stock and deglaze the pan by stirring to remove any caramelized bits stuck to the bottom. Cook for 5 minutes until reduced by half, then add any resting juices from the lamb and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with steamed Swiss chard.