Want to impress your mother next Sunday? Try these deceptively simple yet suitably impressive dishes.
Next Sunday is Mother's Day. A traditional Sunday roast with all the trimmings might be in order, or this simpler one-pan version where the lamb is cooked under cover, in a similar way to a pot roast.
As much as I like the loose knots and wayward tangle of my own attempts at securing a boned and ready-to-carve Sunday roast, there are some things best left to the butcher. Give him a little warning and any decent butcher will bone a leg of lamb for you. He will tie it like the pro that he is and hand you something to roast that will be simple to cook and carve. My love of meat cooked on its bone means I usually end up doing battle with a knee or shoulder joint, but if I roast a boned joint, then the discarded bone goes into the tin to add flavour to the gravy.
To make a truly easy Sunday roast that anyone can do - even the non-cook wanting to treat Mum on Sunday - I put the vegetables into the pan to cook with the meat. At this time of year it's a handful of fashionable roots - the swede and the turnip - given savour with an onion or two and some woody herbs such as rosemary or thyme. You could add potatoes if you wish.
The meat is perched on top, its juices trickling down through the vegetables as it cooks. Anything that catches on the bottom of the roasting tin can be scraped up later and stirred in. Not only does this method save a few saucepans, it ensures vegetables that have been blessed with roasting juices. Serve them as they are, or mash them into a coarse-textured and brightly coloured slush.
Even with everything cooked in one pan, I would go for a dessert made earlier. It's still cold out and nursery puddings are firmly on my menu. Having adored my mum's baked rice pudding for years, it was a happy accident to discover I like it chilled, too. (A late-night drunken fridge moment, if you must know.) Fridge-cold rice is wonderful when bejewelled with almonds or pistachios, dried apricots and raisins or pomegranate seeds. You can make it the day before, then serve it as I did, trickled with nuts and dark chocolate.
Pot roast lamb, buttered root mash
A leg of lamb, sometimes a shoulder, would be my family's Sunday lunch about once a month. There was a sort of unofficial rotation with beef, chicken and pork. Although I often cooked the Sunday lunch I longed for an easy-to-carve alternative to the awkward bones of the shoulder and leg. A bone and rolled leg would have been perfect. Ask the butcher to bone, roll and tie the leg of lamb. The bone is not crucial, but is useful for flavouring the pan juices, so ask the butcher for it. This recipe is for rare lamb. Serves 8.
onions 2 medium sized
turnips 3 medium sized
rosemary a few sprigs
leg of lamb 2.5kg boned and tied
a little olive oil
Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 8. Peel the onions, halve them from root to tip, slice each half into four or five segments, then put them in a large roasting tin. Peel the turnips and swede, then roughly chop them and the carrots, and add to the onions. Pull the leaves from the rosemary and toss them with the vegetables, a little salt and some black pepper.
Pour the water over the vegetables, then place the boned and tied leg of lamb on top of the vegetables, rub the surface with olive oil and season it generously. Tuck the reserved bone among the vegetables to flavour the juices. Roast for 25 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and lower the heat to 160C/gas mark 3 for 10-15 minutes per 500g.
Lift the lamb from its tin, put it on a warm dish covered with its foil, and leave to rest in a warm place for 20-25 minutes. Put the roasting tin over a low heat, add the butter to the pan then crush the vegetables roughly, using a potato masher or a fork. (If the vegetables are not quite tender, let them cook a little longer over the heat, covered with a lid.) You are after a rough, slightly wet mash rather than a purée. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary, then transfer to a warm serving bowl.
Chilled rice with pistachios and chocolate
You can make this in advance, even the night before, then put the chocolate on top an hour or so before eating. Flaked almonds work well here if you prefer them to pistachios. Toast them under a grill till pale biscuit-coloured and crisp. Serves 6-8.
pudding rice 150g
full cream milk 500ml
caster sugar 3 tbsp
ground cinnamon a pinch
a blood orange zest and juice
dark chocolate 100g
pistachios, shelled a handful
Bring the rice and water to the boil in a deep, medium-sized pan, then lower the heat and let it simmer till the water has almost entirely evaporated. (Watch carefully, you don't want it to boil dry.)
Pour in the milk, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer, partially covering with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes or so, till the mixture is creamy and tender. Gently stir in the cinnamon and the sugar.
Add the vanilla extract to the rice. Two or three drops will probably be enough. Grate the orange zest and stir it in together with a little of the juice. Spoon the mixture into dishes then chill thoroughly.
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a heatproof bowl balanced over a pan of simmering water. Avoid the temptation to stir.
Once the chocolate has melted, spoon it over the chilled rice, letting it trickle over the surface. Chop the pistachios and scatter over the chocolate then serve.
Picture: Love me tender: Nigel Slater's pot roast lamb with buttered root mash recipe. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer
Email Nigel at firstname.lastname@example.org