Apologies in advance are probably in order here, as I inflict on you the well worn cafe and restaurant mantra of fresh, local, seasonal produce these dishes. This concept is not new or unique and producers the world over have been working with seasonally available produce for ages, actually, forever.
In these dishes, I also incorporate one of the most basic preservation techniques, smoking, used to preserve the spring produce through leaner times. In this instance, this is not used to preserve, but to add flavour. In making the most of the sweet spring produce available now and the smoking for flavour, I create a light, spring lunch, evocative of the Mediterranean.
As in the Mediterranean,I produced my own backyard crop for the choicest and sweetest peas, broad beans, mint and citrus that were ready to harvest bang on time for a family birthday feast. While preparing the vegetables, I am mesmerised by the soft, fluffy green papoose of the broad bean pod that protects its offspring, keeping it in perfect condition. And the verdant greens of the mint, coriander and peas have not yet been yellowed off by the sun. This time of year really is the height of food perfection.
For a low-fuss feast, throw together these ingredients with some smoked new season lamb, and few embellishments are needed for a gorgeous Mediterranean-inspired spring lunch.
To smoke the lamb and lemons I used a simple smoking technique using a kettle barbecue with hot coals and hickory chips available at most hardware shops.
Smoked lamb with smashed broad bean and spiced pumpkin salad
800g butternut pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and diced
¼ tsp ground allspice
salt and ground pepper
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
500g broad beans, unpodded. If fresh broad beans are not available use frozen.
12 lamb cutlets
100g marinated feta, crumbled
½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
Hickory wood chips
Olive oil spray
1 tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped coriander
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an oven tray with baking paper and place chopped pumpkin on the tray drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with allspice, salt and pepper to taste.
Bake for 30 minutes and then scatter the pumpkin seeds over the top and bake for another five minutes or so until the seeds are roasted. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To make the paste, heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Add the cumin, ground coriander, paprika, turmeric and garlic.
Cook, stirring for one minute. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, fresh, chopped coriander and parsley. Stir to combine. Smear half of the paste onto the cutlets to marinate and set the remainder aside.
Prepare the broad beans by cooking in a medium saucepan of boiling water for three minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water and drain and cool.
When cooled, peel off outer shell and reserve the inner beans. Gently smash with a potato masher, still leaving a coarse texture.
Any smoker can be used to smoke the lamb cutlets. I use a simple kettle barbecue using hot coals cooked down for a few hours with the kettle lid placed on it.
Spray the cutlets with a light spray of olive oil. Place the cutlets on a greased wire rack that sits over a disposable foil tray with a handful of hickory chips spread over the base.
The foil tray should sit on the kettle rack in the barbecue with the hot coals underneath it. Place the lid on the preheated kettle barbecue and leave the vent slightly open.
The cutlets should take about 30 minutes to cook. They will turn a dark red on the outside and just pink on the inside. For well-done lamb return to the heat for about another 10 minutes or cooked inside when checked for doneness.
To assemble the dish, combine the pumpkin, broad beans, feta and coriander in a bowl with a dash of olive oil and the lemon juice. Divide among serving plates and top with the lamb cutlets and a dollop of the remaining paste.
Smoked lemon, peas and broad beans on flatbread
4 Lebanese flatbreads
olive oil spray
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tbsp olive oil
800g broad beans in shell, alternatively, use frozen broad beans
250g fresh peas in shell, alternatively, use frozen peas
⅓ bunch fresh mint
2 lemons, halved
100g pecorino cheese, grated
salt and ground pepper
Preheat smoker or barbecue and place lemon halves over a grill with a smoking wood below. I generally use hickory chips. Smoke for 15 minutes or until the lemons appear golden and caramelised. They should be softened.
If you are cooking this complete meal with the smoked lamb, you can smoke the lemons at the same time as the lamb.
Broad bean and pea topping
Shell the broad beans from the outer pod and cook the beans in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes.
Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and reserve the water for the peas and set broad beans aside. Shell the peas and cook for two minutes in the broad bean water. Drain the peas and set aside.
Shell the cooked broad beans.
In a food processor, pulse the beans, peas, mint, half the pecorino cheese, garlic, olive oil and juice from one smoked lemon for a few seconds to achieve a slightly chunky mixture.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 200C and spray the flatbreads lightly with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with a little salt and the herbs. Cook in the oven on a rack over an oven tray for about 10 minutes or until golden and crisp but not burnt.
To assemble, break the flatbreads into shards and pile on the broad bean and pea topping, serving with extra grated pecorino, a further drizzle of olive oil and the remaining smoked lemon cut into halves again.