On the lamb: Part 2: Side dishes complete this Aussie feast

Fran Sun / Photo

Fran Sun
RUTLAND BITES

For my last column, I wrote about a good old Aussie roast lamb dinner. As we all know, side dishes can really make a meal. I asked my Australian mates what they thought of as truly iconic sides for lamb, and I got an enormous range of replies. Of course, roast potatoes and other roasted vegetables (parsnip, sweet potato, turnip, onion and pumpkin) not jack-o-lantern pumpkins, think more like butternut or acorn squash — got the top pick. But a cheesy, creamy cauliflower gratin, browned to perfection under the broiler, also rated many a mention, along with minted peas, so I thought I’d both make and write about those, and save the roast vegetables for another column.

When we ate the lamb I wrote about last time, my father’s refrigerator was stocked with condiments of all kinds, including mint jelly, so I didn’t bother making it while I was there. I had a large amount of mint to use when I got home to Vermont, so I made up a batch at home.

A few notes on the recipes below. For the cauliflower gratin, you could definitely use some day-old bread and give it a few whizzes in the food processor if you don’t have bread crumbs. You could also use different cheese; a sprinkling of Parmesan over the top of this would be lovely, I think.

You could absolutely leave the garlic out of the minted peas, in which case I would halve the amount of butter you use, since its main job is to be a vessel for garlic!

The mint jelly recipe might need some work. I found it very sweet, and not as minty as I would like. I’ll have to consult my good friend Steve Peters to see what adjustments he would make to the recipe in order to combat these issues, but in the meantime, I’ve slightly reduced the sugar (remembering that it’s important for setting!) and increased the mint steeping time, while also doubling the lemon juice. I also unfortunately had to tend to a fussy baby at a very crucial time for mixing in the chopped mint leaves, so my jelly is a clear golden color. Don’t be tempted to add green food coloring, unless you really love that fluoro hue!

Cauliflower gratin
(Adapted slightly from taste.com.au)

  • 1.5 pounds cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs

Grease a 6-cup-capacity oven dish.

Cook the cauliflower florets for around 5 minutes in salted boiling water, until barely tender.

Drain well and add to greased oven dish.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan, watching carefully. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until bubbling. Remove from heat and add milk slowly, stirring constantly. When mixture is smooth, put back on medium-high heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in ¾ of the cheddar, mixing thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the cauliflower.

Set your broiler to high. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and remainder of cheese over the top of the cauliflower mixture. Place directly under broiler and cook until golden brown. With most broilers, this should take about 5 minutes, but watch carefully — you don’t want it to burn!

Minted peas
(adapted from taste.com.au)

  • 2 pounds frozen peas (or fresh if in season)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup small or chopped mint leaves

Cook the peas in a large saucepan as per directions on the package, or until tender. Drain and set aside. Add butter and garlic to the pan over medium heat and toss until butter is melted and garlic is aromatic (but before it turns brown). Return peas to the pan and toss through until peas are coated thoroughly. Transfer into a serving bowl, add mint, and stir throughout.

Mint jelly
(adapted from food.com)

  • 1 ½ cups firmly packed mint leaves, roughly chopped or crushed, plus about ¼ cup finely
  • chopped for adding to jars
  • 3 ¼ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ ounces pectin
  • 3 ½ cups sugar

Add mint leaves to water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Take off the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain 3 cups of this infusion and pour it back into the saucepan.

Add lemon juice and pectin and stir until dissolved. Bring to a hard boil.

Add sugar and cook fast, stirring to dissolve sugar, until a hard boil is reached that cannot be stirred down. Boil for another minute.

Pour into sterilized jelly jars. Wait just a couple of minutes, depending on how thick your mixture is, then sprinkle the finely chopped mint equally throughout the jars so that it becomes incorporated but doesn’t sink to the bottom. A fine art! Process as normal or pop in the fridge/freezer.

Fran Sun

Fran is a new stay at home mom who moved to Rutland from Australia in 2015.

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