I tested two recipes from James Tanner’s Take 5 Ingredients: 100 Delicious Dishes Using Just Five Ingredients (Kyle Books) and unfortunately they were both semi-disasters. It’s a real pet peeve of mine when recipes are vague in terms of amounts. The lamb recipe simply called for two racks of lamb and one roll of brioche, giving no weight or measurement for either. I couldn’t find brioche rolls (and even if I had, I wasn’t sure they’d be the right size), so I bought a whole loaf and sliced off a chunk. I ended up with way too much of the bread crumb mixture, but I wasn’t sure if this was because I used too much bread or because my racks of lamb were smaller than average. As I was trimming the fat from the lamb as Tanner instructed, I started feeling that I was cutting off so much that I wouldn’t have the “thick meaty filet” Tanner describes. Then, I wondered if I needed to reduce the cooking time. It would’ve been helpful if he had specified what a rack should weigh and given a range of cooking times based on weight. Furthermore, searing the racks for just two minutes per side didn’t give enough of a crust, and the brioche coating was nothing special; I would’ve preferred to cook the racks all the way through in the pan.

Similarly with the leek recipe, I didn’t know how small “small leeks” were. I bought the smallest I could find, but then saw that they were dirty so instead of boiling the leeks whole, I needed to slice them in half in order to clean them. This resulted in them falling apart a little in the boiling water, which was okay; the main problem was that the outer layers of the leeks were tough and impossible to chew. Tanner could’ve given the dimensions for “small leeks” and instructed you to remove the outer layers if they were more than a certain width and felt tough. I did like the sweet and sour flavors of the leeks (the edible parts) paired with the ricotta and crushed red pepper.

Overall, these recipes just aren’t detailed enough for a normal home cook to follow through to good results!

Herb & Mustard-Coated Lamb Rack

Serves 4

2 french-trimmed racks of lamb

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons pommery (or other wholegrain) mustard

for the herb crust

1 roll brioche

2 tablespoons (handful) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Using a sharp knife, cut away the thick layer of fat on the outside of each rack of lamb, trimming off the thin sinewy layer of meat underneath (this will give you a thick meaty fillet and a fatty layer that lies against the bones). Discard the trimmed fat. Season the racks with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

For the herb crust, break the brioche into pieces and place in a food processor and process for 30 seconds to reduce it to fine crumbs. Add the parsley and rosemary and process for another 15 seconds. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. Add the lamb racks and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Place the racks, skin-side up, on a cutting board and smother with the mustard. Press a generous handful of the herb crust over the racks and transfer to a medium roasting pan. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how rare you like your lamb. Cover the bones with foil if browning too quickly.

Remove from the oven, cover, and leave to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sweet & Sour Leeks with Ricotta

Serves 4

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 ½ cups water

8 small leeks

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

¾ cup ricotta, crumbled

Pour the white wine vinegar into a large pan (large enough to accommodate the leeks whole) and add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and add the leeks. Bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 8 minutes until the leeks are soft and tender. Remove from the pan and drain, discarding the liquid.

Preheat the broiler. Using a sharp knife, cut the leeks in half lengthwise and place in a 9-inch square gratin dish. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and ricotta. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until the ricotta is golden and bubbling.

Leave to stand for 2 minutes before serving.