Romesco sauce is a staple round ours. It perks up a bit of pan-fried bream, is the perfect chaperone for chicken or lamb, and gives glossy glamour to an egg.
Romesco originates from Tarragona, in Northeastern Spain, whose fishermen made it to eat with fish. It’s a simple – but slightly fiddly – concoction of toasted almonds, peppers, fried or stale bread, roasted tomatoes, vinegar, garlic and olive oil. But don’t fear, this is a laidback creation, nothing too scientific, so have a play around and come up with a flavour that you love. And when you do, you’ll make it the whole time. Really.
The sauce is a bit vogue-ish too, what with the explosion of sharing plates and hip tapas bars. We’ve had some fantastic examples out and about recently, from Camden’s Night Market, where it was served with whitebait, to Soho bars like Copita or Barrafina, where it often accompanies chops or chicken. And, once again, it’s the latter cookbook that this recipe is adapted from.
The best advice when making romesco is to make more than you need. That way you can have it the next day for breakfast with a slice of good bread and an egg. The combination is almost celebratory.
Lamb Chump Chops with Romesco
Serves 2 (hopefully with enough left over for breakfast)
2 decent lamb chump chops
4 vine tomatoes
1 slice good quality white bread
4 red peppers, grilled whole then peeled and seeds removed
4 tbsp blanched almonds, toasted
1 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
2/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole head of garlic
A touch of red chilli pepper
2 cloves of garlic for marinade
Marinate the lamb with rosemary, thyme, oil and crushed garlic cloves fully covered in the fridge for 1-4 hours (depending on how long you have). We often buy chump chops, the cut behind the loin, with a round rather than T-bone, as they’re meatier. Try Harry’s on Kentish Town Road, Barretts on England’s Lane or Abdallah on Queen’s Crescent.
If you need to blanch the almonds first, then boil them in their skins for a couple of minutes. Once cool, the skins will fall off easily.
Roast tomatoes and garlic head for 20-30 minutes with the oven at 200 degrees. Add almonds for the last 3-5 mins. Grill red peppers whole then let cool before peeling (you can cheat and buy them in oil, if you like). Fry the bread in olive oil, or use stale if you prefer.
Put the lot in a blender adding olive oil and red wine vinegar. Feel free to add more oil if needed as the mixture can be as smooth or chunky as you like.
Heat a griddle pan and sear the lamb chump chops for a couple of minutes each side, according to thickness and cooking preference (we like them very pink). Let rest for 10 mins in a warm place. Serve with toasted flaked almonds scattered on the romesco.
Next morning, serve the remainder of sauce cold with soft poached or boiled eggs on granary or sourdough toast. Season well; it’s as good as anything you’ll ever taste. Excellent for a hangover too.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms