There is a lot of ham in the meat departments this week looking for an Easter Dinner invitation. Lamb is the roast of choice for many other households. With any luck, there will be leftovers to inspire suppers next week, or to freeze against a busy day in the next month.
Someone described eternity as a ham and two people, something I never understood until I saw what a whole ham looked like. Most of the time, the hams we buy are halves, though we can acquire even smaller portions in cans, or tiny packages. Half a ham can last quite a while, depending on how many are working on it. But ham is a pretty darn versatile meat, suitable for every meal of the day. It is good hot or cold, and suitable add-in for soups, salads, omelets, bean dishes, frittatas. Ham and chicken are good together.
I love chopping leftover ham in a food processor, adding mayonnaise and relish, and making sandwiches out of it. I love hash made of ham, potatoes, and onions, coarsely chopped, and fried for breakfast. I love green salad with slivers of ham, slices of hard boiled egg, and vinaigrette dressing dribbled on top.
Lamb, I suspect, is a little more susceptible to being completely devoured at a holiday dinner, especially if there is company. If, however, you get lucky, and a bit of that leg lingers, then you have the potential for some lovely dishes in the Anglo tradition, or more exotic cuisines like Moroccan, Indian, and Mediterranean.
Lamb pot pie made with potatoes, carrots, turnips, celery, and onion, is the simplest and comfortingly familiar concoction, and is flexible enough to accommodate any amount of lamb you have to work with. If you don’t have enough leftover gravy, make a sauce with bouillon. I’d use chicken. Partly cook the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and add the gravy or sauce, and the lamb cut into bite sized pieces Top with your favorite pie crust and bake in a moderate oven (ca: 350 to 375) until the crust is golden.
Consider currying the lamb and serving it with rice. Use the same sauce or gravy as for the pot pie, only seasoned with curry powder to your taste; add some peas, or green beans. There are dozens of online recipes for curries and biryanis that you can adapt to your ingredient lists. Most of the time, I use recipes like those as inspiration, and I try to stay vague if someone asks what it is, so I don’t get stuck with the accusation of not being authentic. So for example, a biryani might call for onion, garlic and ginger sautéed until the onion is soft to which you add chili, pepper, turmeric, cumin, and a can of tomatoes. Then you cook those together until it thickens, and then you add yogurt, mint, cardamom and cinnamon, and finally get around to putting in the lamb, even potatoes. I would hate, however, to claim I was making any Indian dish recognizable to an Indian. I’m just aiming for something that will taste good.
Moroccan dishes use lamb, and are good served with couscous which has got to be the fastest grain to cook anywhere. Ras El Hanout is a spice blend you can buy to use when you want to give a dish a Moroccan flavor; or you can combine salt, pepper, ginger, and turmeric as the basics, plus paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and saffron to taste. Harissa, a spicy pepper sauce also available pre-made, will give your dish a Moroccan flavor. This is another cuisine where onions and tomatoes cooked up with the spices make a sauce to which you add the leftover meat. This sauce made into stew with lamb and some chickpeas and served on couscous make a very good, wholesome supper. If you don’t want to invest in a jar of Ras el Hanout or Harissa, I wouldn’t blame you. After all, how often will you use them? Just use some of the spices listed above and you will get pretty close to the spirit of the dish.
Actually, come to think of it, you could add some leftover lamb to the red lentil dal recipe I gave you a couple weeks ago, serve it on basmati rice and call that supper.
Lamb and bean salad is another possibility; there is a more specific recipe below, very simple, for which you can use canned white beans, cannellinis or white kidney beans. And frankly, I’d enjoy a simple arrangement of thin slivers of roast lamb on a green salad with some feta cheese, and black olives, maybe some tomatoes, with olive oil and lemon juice for the dressing. How easy is that?
White Bean and Roast Lamb Salad
2 cups spinach, torn
1 to 2 cups of cubed roasted lamb
2 cups (or one 15 ounce can) of cooked cannellini beans
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
1 small red onion, sliced very thinly
Small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
Black olives, chopped
2 ounces or so of fresh mozzarella diced, or crumbled feta
Vinaigrette, or your favorite oil and vinegar dressing
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients together about an hour before serving.
Makes two to three main dish servings.