My last flatmate before I got married was, shall we say, a socially active young man. Good-looking, funny, sporty and kind, while we shared that place there was a veritable revolving door on his bedroom and I considered getting the sofa steamcleaned.
But he had a problem. His first-date technique was superb - he would pack an insulated bag with strawberries, cheese and a bottle of chilled dessert wine, and take the girl to Balmoral Beach, for a lovely walk to a remote promontory, and there unpack the surprise picnic. Very nice. And then he had no follow up. What to do for a second date to match that show of sensitivity and caring?
So I taught him how to make this warm lamb salad. It's a good date meal because it isn't fiddly to eat, it's proper food but you don't feel weighed down after it, there isn't anything scary or exotic that might put a girl off. Unless she is vegetarian, which I think needs to be ascertained on the first date, not the second.
It's also one of Paul's favourites, and he got a bit grumpy with me for not having made it in ages. So I bought a part-boned lamb leg, he cooked it on the Weber over charcoal and hickory chips, and we made the best version of this warm lamb salad that has ever been seen. But I will write the recipe as I showed it to my flatmate, all that time ago. It really is a cracking salad. The butternut and veg can be prepared ahead of time and the dressing made and then the lamb gets a last minute flurry of activity.
Warm lamb salad (serves 2)
300g lamb backstraps
1/2 butternut, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 cloves of garlic, whole & peeled
1 bag baby spinach
1 block of feta
handful of toasted pinenuts
ground black pepper
- optional: ripe tomatoes, avocado, artichoke hearts
Toss the chunks of butternut and cloves of garlic in a little oil, place in a roasting dish and bake at 200C for half an hour until they are toasty at the edges, caramelly and gorgeous. Mash the soft, roasted cloves of garlic in a small bowl with a fork. Add a spoonful of mustard, some olive oil and balsamic and put the dressing aside until the end.
Season the lamb backstraps with ground black pepper, and pan fry them in a splash of oil to taste - about 4 minutes a side should be fine - and allow to rest.
In 2 big noodle bowls, arrange the spinach leaves, crumbled feta and toasted pinenuts (and avocado, artichoke hearts and anything else you are adding), top with the butternut. Slice the lamb on the diagonal into dainty girlie bitesize chunks and fan out faffily on top of the veg. Drizzle with the roasted garlic mustard dressing. Provide lots of napkins so she doesn't splash dressing on the silk blouse she bought to impress you.