Lamb’s Lettuce Pesto On Pan Roast Potatoes

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You know me by now, I guess – some weird food idea/combination pops into my head, and I have to follow up on it. Although weird is a relative term here – I’ve read about the weirdest kinds of pesto, and from the sound of it lamb’s lettuce pesto could be one of them.

I’m still sticking to my salad-a-day regime, and for that I’ve bought lamb’s lettuce from several different stores. What I don’t really like is that it comes in huge packages and wilts quickly, even in the fridge. And most of it has very large leaves. The other day at a discounter I discovered a package that was equally large but pretty. Can I say that – salad leaves are pretty? Or does that make me as weird as the pesto sounds? Well, they were, a crisp green, no dirt and grit on them at all, and the leaves were very little. My friend E calls that small-leaved lamb’s lettuce mouse ear salad. Fitting description.

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So, it was clean, small-leaved, pretty, and tasted good. But it was still a very large package. And like it often does, a sudden vision popped into my head of lamb’s lettuce pesto. When I try new kinds of pesto, I also try to stay away from the classic pesto ingredients like parmesan and pine nuts. At the same discounter I bought the lettuce I discovered hazelnut oil. I loved that on the first try, so I wanted to use it in the pesto as well. It seemed logical to replace the pine nuts with hazelnuts. For a parmesan replacement I wanted a hard cheese that was a little softer both in consistency and taste, so I went for goats cheese slices.

Now for the potatoes. Envisioning the pesto on pasta, it looked boring in my mind. Pop! A vision of potatoes in my head. Although I believe Germans eat quite a lot of potatoes, I make pasta more often. One way we eat potatoes is roasted. Either in thinner wedges, or in thicker slices, both varieties are roasted in the pan on the stove. In butter. Please believe me when I say this will be no good with any kind of butter substitute, be it something low-fat or non-fat, oil or cooking spray. Don’t try. Butter is a flavour carrier, and these potatoes live from that. I usually melt the butter in the pan, then add salt and powdered paprika, and then add the potatoes, stirring really well to coat them in the spices. I also add onions; I slice both the potatoes and the onions on the thinnest setting of the mandoline.

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There’s a huge difference of opinion about whether you should cook potatoes before roasting them. I don’t and never saw any reason to. To me, cooking them first makes them crisp on the outside but mealy on the inside. I roast them uncooked, and they get really crispy that way.

So I knew my potatoes would be great but what about the pesto? If I didn’t know it was lamb’s lettuce, I would be wondering what the green stuff was. It doesn’t really have a taste of its own, but the remaining ingredients go really well together. In spite of my lazy nature I quickly dry-roasted the hazelnuts to make their skins come off, and I liked it that way. I used only a small garlic clove so it wouldn’t be the first thing you taste. The hazelnut oil and goats cheese complement the rest very well, so this was an experiment that went OK. I say OK instead of fantastically well because that’s how it was. It’s a great way to use up those huge amounts of lamb’s lettuce, and I would make this again if I had a surplus.

Sorry for the mega-long text, everyone! I promise the recipe is short and quick.

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Lamb’s Lettuce Pesto on Pan Roast Potatoes

lamb’s lettuce
small garlic clove
whole hazelnuts
goats cheese slices, roughly cut
coarsely ground salt
hazelnut oil

Dry-roast the hazelnuts until you get a nice (not burnt!) aroma coming from the pan, then leave to cool for a few minutes.

Whizz the lamb’s lettuce, garlic, hazelnuts and cheese in a blender [my mini blender isn’t large enough, so I did it in two steps – salad first, nuts, then combine and add the cheese.] When it’s reached the desired consistency, add a few turns of coarse salt and a generous amount of oil. Stir well and store in an airtight container, making sure there’s a light layer of oil on top.

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Roast Potatoes
paprika powder
crème fraîche (optional)

Peel potatoes and onions, and slice them using the thinnest setting on a mandoline. Heat a generous amount of butter in a non-stick pan, and when it’s melted add the salt and paprika and stir well. Quickly add the potato and onion slices and keep stirring, making sure everything is coated in the butter-spice-mix.

Separate potatoes as much as possible right from the beginning by poking them with a cooking spoon. This prevents them from sticking together too much during roasting and you ending up with clumps of potato slices that aren’t evenly cooked.

After the potatoes have started to brown a little, turn down the heat to medium. If they’re browning too quickly, put a lid on the pan, but make sure to remove it for about the last 5 – 10 minutes of roasting.

Serve potatoes with a dollop of the pesto. The crème fraîche is purely optional. [My sister and I used to have a phase where we would make these potatoes several times a week, mixing in crème fraîche before serving, so it’s become kind of a habit.]

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