I first tried this dish at 10 Greek Street in London. I love the combination of textures and flavours. The slightly smokey, creamy aubergine (eggplant) flavoured with mint and pecorino is the perfect spring combination to match with lamb. The tangy salsa verde whips up quickly and delivers a punch of freshness to the dish, cutting through the juicy grilled meat. The courgettes (zucchinis) are also grilled but left slightly toothsome to contrast with the creamy aubergine. The whole combination is a delight to senses and will easily impress guests. You can make extra of the aubergine puree and toss with with pasta as a traditional Sicilian dish for another meal or for a vegetarian guest.
Salsa verde means green sauce and is a common sauce in many regions in Italy, particularly those which serve it as an accompaniment to bollito misto (mixed boiled meats). It generally consists of parsley with garlic, hard-boiled egg yolks, breadcrumbs, vinegar, salt, pepper and oil but can also include capers and anchovies (in Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Piedmont) or pickled onions, pine nuts and/or boiled potato (in Bologna). Whatever the combination, it is the perfect aromatic accompaniment to boost the flavour of meat and fish dishes.
Costolette di agnello con tagliatelle di zucchine, pesto di melanzane e salsa verde (lamb chops with courgette ribbons, aubergine puree and salsa verde)
1 large aubergine, rinsed and dried
4 garlic cloves left whole (if roasting, 2 cloves, skinned and finely chopped if not)
100 mls extra-virgin olive oil plus more for cooking the courgette and lamb
75 grams pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
10 leaves mint or basil, rinsed and dried
1/2 lemon, juiced
16 lamb chops, trimmed of the skin, rinsed, dried and brought to room temperature
2 sprigs rosemary, rinsed, leaves removed and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, skin removed and finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped
30 grams flat leaf parsley, leaves removed, washed and dried
70 grams pine nuts, toasted
1/2 shallot, ends and skin removed and finely chopped
5 ml red wine vinegar
1 anchovy fillet in oil, drained
2 courgettes, rinsed, dried and finely sliced lengthwise in 2-3 mm thick strands
Black pepper, freshly ground
Pesto di melanzane (aubergine puree- for illustrated step-by-step instructions, click here):
Heat the oven to 180C. Prick the skin of the aubergine all over and wrap it in foil. Wrap the 4 whole garlic cloves in foil. Bake the garlic for 45 minutes and the aubergine for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and discard. Remove the garlic cloves from the skin. When the aubergine is cool enough to handle, remove the foil and discard. Use a small knife to pierce the skin and peel the skin away from the flesh and discard. Place the aubergine flesh, garlic cloves, pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, lemon juice, 40 mls olive oil and mint or basil in a food processor and blend until creamy. Add salt to taste.
Mix together the finely chopped garlic, anchovy fillets and rosemary. Slice the lamb chops open along the side to create a pocket. Fill the pocket with the garlic anchovy mixture. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the lamb chops and set aside.
Place the shallot and anchovy into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Add the parsley and chop until coarsely chopped. Add the pine nuts, vinegar, 60 mls olive oil and a pinch of salt into the food processor and blitz until the sauce is still slightly chunky but the ingredients are well combined.
Toss the courgettes with olive oil to coat, salt and pepper. Heat a grill or grill pan until very hot. Place the courgettes on the pan being careful not to overcrowd the pan and only place it in one layer without the courgettes touching each other. After 2 minutes, turn the courgettes over and cook another 1-2 minutes until they are slightly wilted. Remove from the pan and cook the next batch of courgettes until they are all cooked.
Bring the grill or grill pan back up to very hot. Add the lamb chops in a single layer, ensuring they are not touching each other in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, turn them over and cook for another 2 minutes. If you prefer your lamb cooked medium then add another minute to the cooking. Remove from the pan and cook the next batch of chops until they are all cooked.
On each plate, smear a bit of the aubergine puree on the plate, toss a few courgette strands on the plate, arrange the lamb chops over the vegetables and drizzle the salsa verde over top. Serve immediately and enjoy!