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"Rack of Lamb Hadlee" by Pat Churchill

 

In the early 1970s, the Sensitive New Age Guy hadn't been born. But he was quietly incubating…

At the time, I was features editor of a daily newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand. I worked with a lot of male journalists and I discovered that quite a few of them were closet cooks - or wanted to be. Tired of a diet of beans on toast, bacon and eggs, and curried mince, these bachelors appointed me as their unofficial culinary adviser.

Cartoon by Pat Churchill

Cartoon of Pat Churchill
by Adrian "Oz" Osborne

We'd retire to the paper's "branch office" - the local pub - after work. Someone would sidle up to me, recharge my glass then casually whisper: "I've bought the blade steak like you suggested. Now how do I make the casserole?" A couple of days later, flushed with success and confidence, they'd report on their blossoming kitchen skills and ask for another recipe. I perceived a need, so I started writing a column for novice cooks. That was the beginning of my food-writing career.

The column proved popular with readers, both male and female, and continued until I took a career break to raise a couple of sons. While the first, Ben, was a baby, I edited a collection of my columns for a bachelors cookbook, "Man About the House." After the second son, James, was born I had an approach from a Sunday paper to write a weekly food column. I called it "Dining In" and it featured a mix of family life and family meals.

Sometimes, I had to lie to my kids about what they were eating, at least until they'd given a dish a chance. An ox tongue caught my eye at the supermarket one day. I smuggled it into a tightly-lidded pot and let it quietly simmer away with some honey, a dash of cider vinegar, and an onion stuck with cloves. I surreptitiously skinned it while the boys were out, and later carved it rapidly and in private while the table was being set.

One boy claimed a good helping for himself, saying he loved corned beef. "Same," said the other, demanding equal shares and going for the mustard sauce. All might have been well had the super-observant James not suddenly zoomed in on the edge of a slice of meat. "It's furry!" he exclaimed, eyeing me as though I might have cooked the cat. Closer inspection, and the penny dropped. That furriness was not dissimilar to the appearance of...

"Tongue!! It's tongue, isn't it?" he accused. Ben had reached the point of no return and was actually enjoying his meat. "Just eat it," he urged. "It tastes like corned beef." While our sons are no longer at home, there are the regular phone calls - "Mum, how do you make tabbouleh?" "How long do you roast potatoes?" "Can I borrow your Jamie Oliver book?" "What do you call that stuff you put in the sushi rice?"

Here, at the bottom end of the earth, we enjoy a reputation for our country's clean, green image. The local produce is superb and I enjoy sourcing and experimenting with it. I tend to regard my refrigerator and pantry as a collection of ingredients in search of a recipe. My kitchen is the most important room in my house. I worked very closely with an architect on its design and it is pretty close to perfect. It suits my way of cooking. There's plenty of room for an audience, plenty of storage space so there's no bench clutter, and plenty of bench space. I count myself blessed. I can combine my two great loves - cooking and writing - and I use a digital camera to illustrate my work.

This is a recipe I developed to mark the occasion when Kiwi cricketer Richard Hadlee took his 400th test wicket.

Rack of Lamb Hadlee with Red Currant Sauce
2 rack of lamb (each with about 9 chops)
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon orange juice
breadcrumbs
finely chopped parsley

Sauce:
1 cup red currants (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cloves

Mix together the mustard and orange juice and spread over the top of each rack of lamb. Mix together the breadcrumbs and parsley and pat into the mustard. Preheat the oven to 200C and roast the racks of lamb for 10-15 minutes (rare to medium rare). Remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes. Place all the sauce ingredients in a pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cloves and press the sauce through a sieve. Simmer a further five minutes to reduce. Spoon a little on each plate and top with 2-3 lamb chops. These are easily separated by carving between the ribs. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

 

Bio: Pat Churchill lives in Wellington, New Zealand and has worked as a journalist and in corporate relations. Her Internet food column, Kiwi Kitchen, recently won the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers Ferndale Electronic Media Award for Information Technology. She has also recently completed an ebook, The Novice Cook.
She is married with two adult sons and her hobbies include culinary research and genealogy. Email: churchll@ihug.co.nz

 


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