The more I cook, the more I’m thrilled by simple recipes. Much of Italian cookery is made of just a few ingredients; making the best of them. I love the recipes in the two River Cafe Cookbook Easy volumes. They’re true alchemy.

This evening, Sam and I have been blown away by a fantastic recipe in Simon Hopkinson’s The Good Cook, the book that accompanied his recent TV series. Breast of Lamb Baked with Onions has just eight lines of ingredients:

1kg boned, rolled and tied breast of lamb (my butcher didn’t have any breast, so I used neck of lamb)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a little dripping or oil (I used rapeseed oil)
1kg onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
2-3 tbsp anchovy sauce
2 tbsp chopped parsley

The lamb, onions and bay leaves are cooked slowly in the oven in a casserole dish with a cartouche for a couple of hours or so until the the lamb is deliciously tender. The lamb and bay leaves are removed and the vinegar and anchovy sauce added to the onions and pan liquid.

The liquid is then reduced, to get a smooth, thick soupy onion gloop.

I put the gloop in the bottom of a bowl and placed the neck of lamb on top scattered with the parsley to serve, and accompanied it with plain cooked carrots and smashed new potatoes with butter and chopped mint. Hopkinson suggests mash, but I liked the idea of mint as a traditional accompaniment for both lamb and new potatoes.

The depth of flavour in the onions and the melting lamb have to be experienced to be believed.

I’ve been a bit quick with the method description here, partly because the recipe is so simple, and partly because I urge you to go out and buy The Good Cook. It’s a cookbook that should be on your bookshelf.

I’m going to cook the recipe again very soon using the right cut of lamb. Maybe it’ll be even better, if that’s possible.