Love me ... tender

GRAHAM HAWKES
Last updated 08:31 06/06/2013
Lamb chops
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
Enjoy tender lamb chops with kiwifruit relish.

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It has been verified once again - our lamb is the best you can get.

I took great pleasure in hearing lamb from Alliance Group (through their American distribution chain) helped chef Nathan Bates win the title of Embassy Chef recently at the Reagan Building and International Trade Centre in Washington.

First-time entrant Bates, head chef to the New Zealand ambassador to the United States since 2007, swept all the award categories at the event.

"I have been meaning to do it [the challenge] for a few years but it seems every time it has come up in the past we had a big event," Bates said to Tim Carmen, the internationally recognised food editor of the Washington Post during an interview following the competition.

"I made a point this year of making sure that I got the time to do it," he said.

Carmen wrote the chops were frenched on the bone, rosy in colour and as tender as cooked carrots.

They had a kiss of char and the slightest gamey hint, just enough to let you know that you were savouring lamb.

The meat was topped with a relish prepared with kiwifruit, herbs and manuka honey, adding more layers of New Zealand flavour to a chop.

As one of the judges, Carmen thought the lamb had been cooked sous-vide (in a water bath), but it had been seared on the hot plate then roasted and cooked medium-rare before being left to rest.

Bates believes he can taste the difference between grass and grain-fed lamb, "Just a nice, mild, clean, so to speak, flavour in the grass-fed free- range lamb.

"It's the stress-free environments in which they are raised and you can taste that in the food."

He's considering doing more promotion of New Zealand lamb in the US and is talking to New Zealand Beef + Lamb about that.

"It will be interesting to see what comes of that. We are definitely looking to build on it."

So this week let's follow chef Bates.

LAMB CHOPS WITH KIWI RELISH (serves 4)

4 ripe kiwifruit, peeled and halved

2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped

2 spring onions, cleaned and finely chopped

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp manuka honey

4 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

4 lamb chops

Olive oil infused with garlic, mint and rosemary

Method: Place the garlic, spring onions and mint into the food processor and process until finely chopped.

Add the vinegar and honey and pulse to combine.

Add the kiwifruit and pulse until chopped to a relish consistency.

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Allow to stand for an hour or so to help the flavour infuse.

Brush the chops with olive oil infused with chopped garlic, chopped fresh mint and chopped fresh rosemary.

Seal on each side in a heavy pan. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Allow to rest for five minutes.

Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.

- The Southland Times

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