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Through a series of miscalculations, poor decision-making and a spot of bad luck, we’ve found ourselves without a dining table or chairs at home. We have had to adapt our cooking to sofa-dining for a few weeks, and we have been rather enjoying it.
Lounging for dinner like ancient Roman nobility or sultans in their palaces is a terrific night in for simple souls like us, as long as you follow some easy rules. You should serve meals in a bowl or something deep; all cutting should be done in the kitchen — the food ideally needs to be manageable with a fork or a spoon as the other hand will be holding a bowl; potential spillage must also be taken into account, so a good amount of napkins should be close at hand.
We had great fun with hearty soups on colder nights and chunky salads on warmer ones. We learnt to avoid beetroot on an evening we will always remember because of a stain that won’t come out, and we learnt to favour short pasta over long strands.
As a result, we are confident enough to entertain like this now. When friends come over, we often serve some nibbles and a bowl of this lovely dish, which is somewhere between winter and spring, and something between a soup and a stew. The lamb is cooked to soft submission, the cooking liquid turns into a delicious, rich broth with broad beans bobbing about. The squash provides sweetness and a bit of heft, and they all sit so comfortably together in a bowl, just made to be eaten on a sofa.
Our friends seem to enjoy our new style of entertaining. We have a dining table now but still no chairs — perhaps we won’t even bother.
Spring lamb necks in new-season garlic and broad-bean broth
Generous dinner for four with some leftovers
For the stew
|1kg||lamb necks (about four to five)|
|3 tsp||flaky sea salt|
|Generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper|
|3 tbs||vegetable oil|
|3-4||banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways|
|2||heads of new-season garlic (or use one regular bulb), halved lengthways|
|6||cracked cardamom pods|
|1 tbs||whole coriander seeds|
|4||strips of lemon peel (using a peeler)|
|1||small butternut squash, cut into large chunks with the skin still on|
|300g||podded broad beans (from 1kg fresh or you can use frozen ones)|
For the mint salsa
|The leaves from one bunch of mint (20g)|
|1||small clove of garlic|
|Zest of half a lemon (use the other half of the one above)|
|Sprinkling of sea salt|
|3 tbs||olive oil|
- Heat a large saucepan on a medium-high heat and pour in the oil. Season the lamb necks with all the salt and pepper and lay them in the saucepan. Fry on each side until they are golden brown all over (this will take about eight to 10 minutes). Move them to one side of the pan and add the shallot halves and the garlic to the other side. Fry for about five minutes, mixing well and then add all the spices. Fry for a further five minutes and then add a litre of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan, simmer gently for 50 minutes.
- Add all the butternut wedges, re-cover and continue simmering for another 30 minutes. Open the lid, mix well, taste for seasoning — you may need to add a little more salt. Keep the lid half covered and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- When you are ready to eat, add the broad beans and simmer for a final 10 minutes. Dish up a piece of lamb and some vegetables for each person and a ladleful of the accompanying broth.
- For the mint sauce, chop the mint very finely with the garlic clove and lemon zest. Add a sprinkling of sea salt, mix with the olive oil and serve with the lamb.