I have a confession. Before I began writing this column, I did a Google search for marmalade. You see, I had no idea what it was. I mean, I knew lots of people around me liked marmalade, it looked bright and jolly, it was beloved by Britons—especially Paddington Bear, as I recall—but what was it really?
As most of you know, it is a fruit preserve, the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. It’s best known for being spread on toast, a prospect that did not interest me. So it took my vegetarian wife to interest me by noting it could be a glaze for roast meat.
I perked up. The conversation around marmalade had started because Kishi Arora—a chef in Delhi of whom we are fans (check her Instagram and Twitter feeds and judge for yourself)—had very kindly sent us a jar of her own marmalade. It was an orange marmalade infused with vanilla. Now, I am very interested in most things that Kishi does, in particular her devotion to traditional Indian food and the gorgeous visual interpretations of whatever she cooks.
But the marmalade flummoxed me until the roast-meat suggestion came along. While the attempt to deploy Kishi’s marmalade as a glaze on a rack of lamb was reasonably successful, I had to think a bit about the meat itself before I began.
Of course, I know the link between red meat and heart disease and even cancer (if you believe those studies that say there is no link, good luck) but I firmly believe in the life-of-moderation approach. I have a clogged artery somewhere within me, and, for some years after a cardiac scare, I shunned red meat altogether. On the urging of my wife, who thought I had lost some of my joie de vivre after being told to discard large animals for lunch, I asked my cardiologist if it was okay to have a bit of lamb, pork or beef. He advised the moderation approach, and that is what I have adopted.
As I see it, life without its pleasures is quite hollow—and red meat has always been one of my family’s pleasures. Like me, my father was diagnosed with ischemic heart disease—at the same age, 48. He, too, did not give up red meat but ate it sparingly, having mutton chops and biryani with enthusiasm when the occasion warranted. He lived to 88, and one of the pleasures of his life was good food.
The pleasures of life, I firmly believe, are not to be undervalued or ignored. Life isn’t only about making sure your HDL cholesterol and sodium are under control. Life is about balance: Don’t be a glutton and throw every caution to the wind; equally, don’t be a hypochondriac and become a culinary hermit.
If a nightcap is what makes you sleep well as you age, by all means, indulge. If roast lamb brings a special smile to your face, eat a bit on the weekend. If, however, a smoke is what you crave, I would strongly advise against it, although I am sure there are enough people who have crossed that red line and survived to a ripe age.
So it was that the rack of lamb was hauled home one day by the wife after a morning walk to one of our neighbourhood butchers. I first got acquainted with the marmalade by gingerly taking a lick. That itself was a far country for me, given my general suspicion of anything infused with sugar. It was indeed sweet but intriguingly tart—the bitterness comes from orange rind—and I could certainly visualise it as a glaze. Kishi told me the marmalade was made from organic oranges—narangis—harvested from her terrace and from a batch she had received from a neighbourhood aunty’s terrace. She added Madagascar vanilla that she had got from her sister in California.
We tend to sometimes overdo spices on our red meats in the subcontinent and given my penchant for minimalism, I simply applied the marmalade as glaze, with black pepper and ginger-garlic. I noted the rack of lamb had a layer of fat, which I let stand. That meant I could keep it open in the oven, as opposed to sealing it in foil to retain the juices and keep it moist.
Most of the meat we eat is trimmed of all fat and cooked with minimal oil, so I figured it was quite all right to occasionally allow fat to ooze through and soften and flavour the meat. The rack browned beautifully in the heat of the oven and when it emerged, it was soft yet crusty. It disappeared quickly, and since we were indulging, I poured myself some Old Monk. It was, after all, a day for pleasures.
ROAST RACK OF LAMB WITH MARMALADE GLAZE
750g rack of lamb, whole, with fat
2 tbsp marmalade
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp fresh-ground pepper
Salt to taste
Wash and pat dry the rack of lamb. Marinate with all the ingredients and set aside for at least four hours. Preheat the oven, place the rack of lamb, fat side up, on foil. Roast at 200 degrees Celsius for 90 minutes, basting when required with the fat running free. If not done, cover with foil and let stand for another 30-45 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Remember, cooking times depend on the kind of lamb you obtain.
Our Daily Bread is a column on easy, inventive cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking—And Other Dubious Adventures. @samar11