It’s a well-known fact that leftovers are often better than the original meal itself. While I’m not one of those people who believes cold roast potatoes, congealed gravy and the sad, wizened remains of a roast parsnip can ever be a good thing (particularly as I consider parsnips the Devil’s food), I will concede that the dishes you make with leftover meat (or fish) frequently turn out to surprise and delight.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that the meat has been left to compose its thoughts in the fridge for a day or two, to somehow deepen in flavor. Perhaps it’s because dishes involving leftovers are often more creative than a plain Sunday roast, bringing in flavours that we might consider sacrilegious were they to intrude upon that hallowed Sabbath meal with its comforting and largely beige-and-brown blank canvas. Perhaps the knowledge that we are being frugal and economical, letting nothing go to waste, makes everything taste that little bit sweeter.
Finding myself with a large amount of leftover slow-cooked lamb shoulder (simply roasted, rubbed with garlic, rosemary, salt and olive oil), along with various other odds and ends in the fridge, I whipped up a very quick salad. There were canned beans, courgettes sautéed with garlic, leftover roasted fennel and onions from alongside the original lamb meal, squeaky green beans, and a very simple dressing of chopped anchovies (their saltiness is ridiculously good with lamb), lemon juice, garlic-infused olive oil and parsley. In too went the shredded lamb meat, to heat through and mingle with the other ingredients.
It looked tasty. Appetising. I wasn’t quite prepared for the incredible explosion of flavour it provided. I think the secret lies in the harmonious and incredibly moreish combination of anchovies, lemon, garlic and parsley. Combine this with creamy, starchy beans, sweet caramelized earthy vegetables, and the deeply savoury, rosemary-scented chunks of lamb shoulder, and you have a plate to remember. Next time I roast lamb, I bet I barely register the taste of the original meal: it’s this salad I’ll have in mind.
However, roasting a whole lamb shoulder to make a salad seems a little over the top. For this reason, I’ve recreated this delicious impromptu leftovers meal using fresh onions and fennel, and lamb chops. The chops take a few minutes to cook (the lamb shoulder, on the other hand, took four hours) – treat them as you would a good steak. I’ve used Barnsley chops in this salad, which are double lamb chops taken from across the lamb loin, but you could use normal lamb chops or lamb cutlets, if you’re feeling extravagant. The meat is sweet and tender, complemented perfectly by the zingy yet comforting flavours of the accompanying salad. A perfect springtime treat.
First, boil the green beans in salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside. Roughly chop the courgettes.
Finely slice the onion and fennel. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan or saucepan and sauté the onion and fennel with a pinch of salt over a medium heat until softening and turning golden and caramelized. Add to the drained butterbeans.
Heat a little more oil in the pan, then add the garlic and courgettes. Cook over a high heat until the courgettes are golden brown on all sides. Lower the heat and return the butterbeans, fennel and onion to the pan. Stir in the green beans.
Finely chop the anchovy fillets, and stir into the vegetables in the pan. Squeeze over the lemon juice, drizzle over the garlic oil and scatter over the parsley. Check the seasoning – it won’t need much salt, as anchovies are salty. Turn off the heat.
Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season the lamb chops on both sides, then add to the pan. Cook on a medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you would like your lamb (cook it as you would steak). Leave the lamb to rest for a couple of minutes while you plate up the salad, then serve alongside it.