THE ITALIAN CONNECTION
What’s cooking today: Italian-style lamb chops
Not everyone’s cut out for the hospitality industry. It’s tough, customers are difficult (and often downright terrible), the hours are unsociable, and you work very hard for your money. Why do people choose this difficult line of work?
For many, the hospitality industry is a calling. It’s fun, fulfilling and it does teach one some valuable life lessons. About professionalism, patience, resilience, managing stress, teamwork, dealing with adversity, and especially the importance of communication. Having worked in the hospitality sector for about a decade, I also picked up many cooking tips and tricks along the way.
Some of my fondest memories of the industry were made at Decameron on Stellenbosch’s Plein Street, which has been turning out wood-fired pizzas, baby chickens, pastas and other simple Italian dishes for more than three decades.
With a legendary corner table and walls covered in Rennaissance prints and other art works, Decameron has always been a magnet for locals from the “Bosch”, including some of Stellenbosch’s most connected and regular diners, from Anton and Huberte Rupert, to Jannie Mouton, Whitey Basson and GT Ferreira.
The restaurant, owned by Mario and Andrea Ladu, is named for The Decameron (the meaning derived from the Ancient Greek for “10 days”), a collection of short stories written in the late 14th century by celebrated Italian writer and poet Giovanni Boccaccio.
Framed around an existential crisis – the Black Plague – Boccaccio’s 10 short stories are accounts by 10 (fictional) young people who had taken shelter in a villa just outside Florence to escape the Black Death. With defiant tales of love, Decameron is themed around renewal and recreation – a masterpiece of Italian literature, which is said to have inspired Shakespeare and Chaucer.
Ladu’s popular “Italian-style” sauce for steaks serves as inspiration for this recipe for lamb chops, which I serve with barley and a lemony spinach salad.
Simple, delicious and super easy to whip up in less than half an hour, these lamb chops are grilled in an almost smoking hot pan, then tossed in a rich buttery sauce of garlic, rosemary, olives and lemon.
If you’re not in the mood for lamb, the sauce is super versatile – it works just as well with steak or chicken.
Six lamb chops
6 clove garlic, chopped
½ cup olive oil
Three rosemary sprigs
Three fresh bay leaves, bruised lightly
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp of hot English mustard
handful of good quality black olives (not pitted, as they’re dry and flavourless)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Lay the chops on a tray, brush them with a little olive oil and season with a little black pepper, crushed garlic and rosemary. Cover with cling film and leave out of the fridge for about half an hour to marinate.
Heat up a griddle pan till very hot, cook lamb quickly, until the outside is crisp but the inside is still slightly pink. Cover and set aside.
In the same griddle, working quickly, add olive oil, butter, the rest of the garlic, herbs, cumin, mustard, olives and lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the lamb and serve.
1 packet of Swiss chard, cleaned (place in a bowl filled with water and push them down repeatedly) and stemmed
Juice of one lemon (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ tsp fresh nutmeg
Wilt spinach in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain the excess water.
Add spinach to a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve either hot or cold. DM
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.