Mix it up: Lamb with fennel, preserved lemon and olives makes for a versatile base. Photo: William Meppem.
This lamb braise is best served with couscous or rice. A nice date and orange salad would be a welcome addition.
You can replace the lamb with chicken - just don't put in so much water and halve the cooking time. You can also add dates, dried apricots, almonds - whatever takes your fancy.
Lamb with fennel, preserved lemon and olives
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
800g lamb shoulder, cut into 11/2 cm dice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup preserved lemon rind, sliced, plus
extra for serving
1 tsp saffron, infused in 2 tbsp water
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 baby fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut
lengthways into sixths
16 green olives
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Add the lamb and a good sprinkling of salt and fry until golden brown. Transfer lamb to a dish.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook over a medium heat until soft. Add the lemon rind, saffron water, ginger, cumin and chilli and stir.
Return the lamb to the pan along with 2 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add the fennel, turn down to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes or until everything is meltingly soft.
Remove pan from the heat, stir in the olives, and spoon into 4 bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and add a good grind of fresh pepper to serve.
Ouefs a la neige (eggs in snow)
For custard sauce
1 vanilla bean
1 strip orange zest
2 large eggs
35g caster sugar
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the custard sauce, add the milk, vanilla bean and orange zest to a saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes to infuse the flavours.
Return the milk to a simmer.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth, then gradually add a little of the hot milk. Continue whisking as you pour the rest of the milk in slowly.
In a saucepan, cook mixture over a low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and you can draw a ribbon through it. Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl, cover it and refrigerate until cold.
For the meringues, place the milk in a wide sauté pan adding enough water to give you a depth of about 5 to 6cm; bring it to a gentle simmer.
While the milk simmers, beat the egg whites in a bowl until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until the meringue is stiff.
Using two large spoons dipped in cold water, form 6 large egg-shaped ovals of meringue. Drop them gently into the simmering milky liquid (do a couple of batches, don't overcrowd). Cook on one side for about 8 minutes, turn and cook on the other for about 4 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
To serve, pour custard sauce into each of 6 bowls and top with the meringues.
• Oeufs à la neige is French for "eggs in snow". At this time of year, try serving it with cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines or mangoes.
SOMETHING TO DRINK
Parker Estate Terra Rossa 2004 is a fine example of Coonawarra cabernet ($40). The wines extra complexity and secondary aromas work perfectly with the fennel and olives in the lamb braise.
Photography by William Meppem. Styling by Hannah Meppem. Food preparation by Dominic Smith.