Papaya, Garlic & Anise Marinated Lamb Rack With Panch Phoron Kabocha And Creamy Garlic Sauce

This is a recipe for rack of lamb inspired by a marinade prepared by Chef Atul Kochhar of Benares as part of his presentation for the South-Eastern regional heats of Great British Menu 2007. I've changed a few things and made a creamy garlic sauce from the marinade. Although a lot of flavoursome ingredients are used, the result is a subtle combination of flavours that does not at all dominate the delicate sweetness of the lamb. My vegetable accompaniment is the highly versatile Japanese kabocha squash, roasted with Bengali panch phoron spice mix. It's a great combination! (Note: some roasted carrot turns up in the final picture here because I had some carrot that needed using up so I cooked it with the kabocha).

Ingredients (3 portions)

For the marinade
2 tbsps finely chopped papaya (about half a typical papaya, deseeded and chopped)
5 cloves of garlic
2 green chillies
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika (good quality Hungarian paprika is recommended)
3 tbsps mustard oil
100 ml single cream
3 tbsps double cream
2 tbsps gram flour
2 tbsps anise liqueur (anisette, pastis, sambuca, ouzo, etc.)
1 pinch grated nutmeg

For the lamb
2 racks of lamb with 6 ribs each

For the vegetable
1 medium Japanese kabocha
1 tbsp panch phoron mixture
vegetable oil

For the sauce
Marinade excess removed from the meat after marination
2 banana shallots
2 cloves garlic
a knob of butter
black pepper
150ml double cream
1 tsp fresh finely chopped rosemary (or 1 tsp of dried rosemary)
a dash of Worcestershire sauce


These are the ingredients for the marinade. Start by halving the papaya, peeling one half and putting the other half away. Remove the seeds and roughly chop the flesh.

Finely chop the cloves of garlic and the green chillies. It is important that these are finely chopped for reasons that will be apparent later.
Grind the fennel seeds, using a mortar and pestle preferably, or otherwise in an electric grinder.

Put the papaya, garlic, chilli and fennel into a food processor and add the ground black pepper and the paprika, followed by the mustard oil.
Now pour in the single and double cream, followed by the gram flour, a pinch of nutmeg and the anise liqueur.

Blend the marinade mixture thoroughly.

Although a very smooth mixture would not normally be necessary for marinating, we are going to use part of the marinade to make the sauce - hence the importance of fine chopping and thorough blending, especially of the chilli and garlic.
My racks of lamb had five bones each, but the ingredients I have listed here are adequate for 3 portions using two 6-bone racks.

Massage the marinade into the meat, focusing on the eye of the rack but ensuring that marinade reaches all the nooks and crannies.
Cover with clingfilm or foil. The minimum time for the marinating process is one hour, but as long as possible up to about 24 hours would be better.

Use common sense to decide whether to refrigerate it during the marination process. This will depend on the marinating time and the ambient temperature. Don't leave it out for hours in a warm room!

Now for the kabocha. This Japanese variety of squash has a particularly tough skin. It's not hard to peel once you know how to go about it, so ask someone for advice or look it up on the web, but don't try to work it out for yourself as you will probably hurt yourself in the attempt!
Once peeled and segmented, put the squash into a roasting tray and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This is the panch phoron spice mix - a mixture of fennel, mustard, nigella, fenugreek and cumin seeds.
Heat a little oil gently and add the spices. Leave them until they start to pop and you can smell the aromas releasing into the oil. This process is known as tempering.

Pour the tempered panch phoron and its oil over the kabocha. Prepare for roasting a bit later.
Scrape off the excess marinade from the lamb and set aside.

Place the lamb into a roasting dish, drizzle with oil and put into a pre-heated oven at 200º (gas mark 6).

Now start to prepare the sauce, beginning with the excess marinade.
Finely chop the shallots and crush the garlic with some salt, using the flat blade of the knife. Sweat the shallots and garlic in a pan in a little butter, adding some freshly ground black pepper.

When adequately sweated (the shallot will be translucent), add the marinade mix and the cream and blitz the mixture in a blender while it is still warm.

At this stage (7 or 8 minutes after the lamb has gone into the oven) put the kabocha into the oven to roast.
Turn the sauce into a pan over a low flame and stir. Cook slowly to reduce and thicken the sauce.

To add extra flavour, I used rosemary. As I didn't have any fresh at the time, I made an infusion by adding a little boiling water and leaving for a few minutes, then straining the liquid into the sauce.
Finally, add the Worcestershire sauce a few drops at a time, to taste.

The lamb should take 12-20 minutes depending on your oven and how rare you like your meat. Check the meat and return to the oven if necessary.

When done, remove from the oven and rest the meat for at least 10 minutes.

Before carving the meat, check that the kabocha is just about ready. The timings for this dish will come with practice - beware that kabocha turns from undercooked to overcooked very quickly!
After resting and carving my lamb, I found the cutlets were too rare for my liking, so I pan-fried them in hot oil for ten seconds or so on each side.

This is a simple way to rescue undercooked lamb cutlets.

Plate up the meal and serve.

Sorry about the picture - it's not my best effort at photography. But the meal was absolutely delicious.