Luke Hammond says when he was growing up in Tasmania a traditional roast lamb was often on the menu. “My lamb memories are more just your regular meat and veg, gravy and mint sauce,” he says. But when the head chef of Collingwood’s Hotel Jesus lived overseas in Mexico and Brazil, the way he saw the meat started to change.
“In Mexican cuisine, it’s definitely a lot more spiced and slower cooked,” he says. “Lamb rack is made in banana leaf and in the pits, and cooked overnight for 18 hours.”
Hotel Jesus does a slow cooked twice-cooked brisket Xico mole and a lamb shoulder barbacoa, but Hammond’s spiced-up lamb-rack recipe is time-poor friendly. “It’s an easy dish if you haven’t got much time,” Hammond says. “Something you can easily just throw on quickly.”
It all starts with making a simplified mole-inspired rub, a traditional Mexican sauce that can consist of 80 ingredients and take a couple days to make. “With the dry rub, I took a lot of elements out of that,” Hammond says. “What’s left is cacao powder, chilli powder, cumin, brown sugar, some smoky paprika; just to give a few of the flavour elements of a mole.”
Hammond opts for lamb because it’s versatile. “You can do anything you want with it,” he says. “There’s so many different parts of it – you can easily just put a chop on that quickly cooks in a couple of minutes, or you can have shanks you can slow cook.”
For this recipe, throw the rubbed lamb on the barbeque for that chargrill flavour, otherwise it cooks just as well in a frying pan or under the grill. “It will still come out with the same sort of flavour,” he says. “The rub caramelises nicely, giving the lamb a really smoky, spicy and sweet flavour. The chocolate gives a nice bitterness.”
Hammond pairs it with a simple and fresh cabbage salad, and an avocado and mint salsa. “Mint goes very well with lamb,” he says. “It cuts through a bit of that fat and sweetness on the lamb.”
The rule to follow here: rest it for as long as you cook it. “You’re allowing the muscles to relax back and the juices all stay back into the meat,” he says. “It keeps the meat much juicier.”
As a quick “interactive dinner party”-style option, Hammond says to enjoy with a cold Mexican beer or mezcal. “It’s a simple dish anyone could probably do in half and hour,” he says. “In Mexican cuisine, you can have a bunch of ingredients and tortillas and everyone can sit around and make your own tacos.”
Mole-Rubbed Lamb Rack With Salsa and Cabbage Salad, by Hotel Jesus
Lamb rack and dry rub
4-point shoulder rack, cut into chops
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp smoky paprika
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sea-salt flakes
2 tsp brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp black pepper
Avocado and mint salsa
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp salt
1 tsp chopped mint
¼ cup finely sliced red cabbage
¼ cup finely sliced white cabbage
¼ cup julienne carrot
¼ cup julienne green apple
¼ cup julienne breakfast radish
1 tbsp julienne mint
1 tbsp micro coriander (substitute for coriander)
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of ½ orange
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp agave nectar (can substitute for honey)
Sea salt to taste
Combine all dry ingredients for the dry rub. Rub the chops with the vegetable oil, and cover with dry-rub mix. Place onto a barbeque or chargrill and cook for approximately 2 minutes. Rotate the chop 90 degrees and cook for a further minute. Flip the chops over and repeat the process. Remove the chops from the grill and rest for 3 to 4 minutes.
For the avocado salsa, remove the pip from the avocado and scoop out the flesh into a blender. Add all other ingredients and blend to a creamy consistency. If it is too thick, add a little water.
For the cabbages salad, toss all ingredients together and set aside.
Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined.
While there are a handful of ingredients in the dry rub alone, most are already in the pantry. Normal paprika will do, for example, or ditch the chilli if you don’t like it hot.
If you don’t have a food processor or blender, mash up your avocado with a fork. “Have it a little bit more chunky rather than smooth and creamy: the same flavour will be there,” Hammond says.
Run the carrot, green apple and radish through a grater for a short cut.
Rotating the chop is “just one of those restaurant things”, Hammond says, to get that nice little hash tag mark.
Double or triple the recipe for more people. “If it was a dish you did enjoy, make that spice mixture in a bigger bunch and keep it in your cupboard for weeks on end,” Hammond suggests.
Corn-based tortillas are authentic Mexican, whereas flour-based are Tex-Mex. Heat a dry frying pan on medium heat, frying each for 10 seconds on both sides. Wrap in a tea towel for 3 to 4 minutes to steam before serving.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Australian Lamb.