Perfect Wines for a Perfect Easter Lunch

Easter is nearly upon us, bringing with it a long weekend full of chocolates, hot cross buns, Easter Egg hunts and good food and wine aplenty.

But who knows what Easter will bring weather wise? We could be sunning ourselves in the garden or huddling around an open fire to keep warm.

Whatever the weather, I am delighted to provide, in collaboration with Leiths School of Food and Wine two delicious recipes as well as the perfect wine pairings.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with a Caper and Anchovy Relish

Serves 6–8
1 leg of lamb, about 2–3kg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the relish
2 shallots
1 garlic clove
75g anchovy fillets in oil
2 tbsp olive oil
½ lemon
Large bunch of parsley
¼ bunch of thyme
¼ bunch of oregano
3–4 tbsp small capers, rinsed and drained180ml extra virgin olive oil
1 Bone and butterfly the lamb (see page 427).
2 Heat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7. Weigh the lamb and calculate the cooking time, allowing 6–8 minutes per 450g, plus 20 minutes.
3 Open out the lamb, season it on the underside and lay it skin side up in an oiled roasting tin. Sprinkle the skin with salt and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then lower the oven setting to 190°C/gas mark 5 and continue to roast for the remainder of the calculated cooking time.
4 Meanwhile, to make the relish, halve, peel and finely dice the shallots, peel and crush the garlic and drain and coarsely chop the anchovies.
Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan, add the shallots and sweat
for 5minutes until just starting to soften. Add the garlic and anchovies
and sauté over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes until the anchovies start to melt. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
5 Juice the ½ lemon. Finely chop enough of the parsley, thyme and
oregano leaves to give you 4–5 tbsp in total.
6 Add the capers, herbs and extra virgin olive oil to the cooled relish
mixture and stir in enough lemon juice to balance the oil. Taste and
season with pepper (the anchovies and capers add enough salt).
7 Once the lamb is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to rest for 15–20 minutes. To serve, slice the meat across the grain and arrange on a large serving platter. Spoon a little of the relish over the lamb and serve the rest in a bowl.

This delicious recipe can be found on page 446 in Leiths How To Cook 

The Perfect Wine to accompany Butterflied Lamb

Forget about the protein – it’s much more important to focus on the condiments and spices!
Anchovies and capers are tangy, salty and fresh. To let these ingredients shine it is important to find a wine which matches them in their zippy pizazz and the acidity can cut through the fattiness of the meat.
White Wine lovers can also  have A LOT of fun with lamb!
Best White Wine Option:
Island wines with maritime, saline flair like Sardinian Vermentino, Sicilian White and Assyrtiko from Santorini. Italian Whites from Campania with their earthiness and fab acidity such as Fiano and Falanghina. White Bordeaux would elevate the herbs and garlic beautifully.
Rose would also be a safe option especially a more restrained Rose from Provence due to its acidity and herbal freshness.
Reds are more tricky but aim for something with good acidity and an earthy or hebaceous undertone .
Italian reds tend to have this in spades and a Sicilian Red or a Sardinian Cannanou would hold their own without blanketing the zesty sauce. I also think an aromtic, light red frm the Loire would match the herbaceous freshness perfectly.
Ultimately you don’t want anything too oaky or high in alcohol as it would clash with the other ingredients and dry out the wine in the process.

Noisette of Lamb with Ratatouille 

Serves 4
2 best end necks of lamb, 6–7 bone racks
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the ratatouille
½ quantity sauce pizzaiola (see page 128, omitting the dried herbs)
Small handful of basil, plus 4 sprigs to finish
½ red onion
½ red pepper
1 courgette
½ small aubergine
3–4 tbsp olive oil
1 plum tomato
¼ tsp ground coriander
1 Prepare the lamb for noisettes (see page 444 of Leiths How To Cook), keeping the rolled lamb whole.
2 Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a low to medium heat, sprinkle the lamb with salt and place in the frying pan. Brown and crisp the fat, turning every so often to ensure it is evenly brown all round the noisettes, about 5–10 minutes. Transfer to a roasting tin and set aside until ready.
3 For the ratatouille, put the sauce in a saucepan. Pick the basil leaves off their stems and reserve. Bash the stems with a rolling pin to bruise them, then add to the sauce and heat until simmering. Take off the heat and set aside to infuse.
4 Peel and very finely chop the onion. Peel the red pepper with a swivel vegetable peeler and cut into very fine dice. Trim the ends off the courgette and aubergine and cut both into dice the same size as the pepper. Keep the vegetables separate.
5 Heat enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry over a low heat until softening, then increase the heat to colour a little. Tip into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan and, over a medium heat, add more oil and fry the red pepper, then the courgette, leaving them slightly firm. As each vegetable is cooked, add it to the bowl with the onion. Add more oil and repeat with the aubergine, covering the pan initially. Remove the lid when there is a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Cook until soft.
6 Blanch the tomato in boiling water for 10 seconds, then refresh in cold water. Peel, deseed and cut into fine dice (concasse). Heat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3.
7 Transfer the sauce pizzaiola to a food processor, discarding the basil stalks. Blend until smooth and return to the pan. Add all the vegetables and tomato concasse, tear in the basil leaves and heat through, stirring gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add the ground coriander and keep warm.
8 Roast the lamb in the oven for 4–8 minutes until pink, then leave to rest for 4–5 minutes before removing the string. To carve the lamb, trim off the end pieces and cut each piece of meat into 6 equal-sized noisettes.
9  Spoon the ratatouille onto 4 plates and place 3 slices of lamb on each portion. Finish with basil sprigs.

Again this recipe can be found in Leiths How To Cook on page 446

The Perfect Wine to Lamb Noisettes

It is important again to consider the earthy yet fresh ratatouille and not to simply focus on the lamb.
A safe principle to use in food and wine pairing is ‘Whatever grows together goes together’.
This rustic Provencal dish goes perfectly with the fruity yet earthy Cotes du Roussillon wines or Faugeres from the Languedoc.
A serious Beaujolais from Brouilly or Morgon would have the gravitas for the meat but is light on its feet with the summery vegetables.
For an off the piste option the wild grape Cinsault from South Africa or Lebanon would provide an exotic earthy spice and rusticity.
Aged Sangiovese with its sweet vegetal undertones and great acidity would also be a satisfying pairing.
Rose Options should have enough structure to stand up to the ratatouille and cut through the lamb. Bandol Rose, made from the tangy, earthy Mourvedre grape is a fruity yet elegant option as would a Garnacha based Rose from Spain.
White Wine should be tangy and match the acidity of the tomatoes. Maritime climates (vineyards near to the sea)  are a safe bet at providing zippy and aromatic options. Albarino from Galicia or a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda Valley or Casablanca would complement this fresh, flavourful dish perfectly. 

Thank you once again to Leiths for providing such wonderful recipes, to ensure a perfect Easter lunch. If you would like more information on my next masterclass at Leiths, please do visit the Whats On page.

Bacchant Blessings for Easter!