Wine & Food Killers: Orecchiette with Yoghurty Herb Sauce and Spiced Lamb and Brash Higgins ZBO Zibibbo 2019

If there’s anything an indefinite lockdown scenario proves, it’s the importance of routine. In the absence of outdoor activity, self-imposed structure is the armature on which my weeks are now formed. On Fridays, I order takeout and cue up a movie. On Sundays, I do my weekly sourdough bake. And on Mondays, inspired by HB&B’s beer writer, Pellicle editor Matthew Curtis, I make pasta.

If you want a suitably springy #PastaMonday recipe that takes under an hour to prepare (and uses pantry staples, plus generally accessible ingredients), I’d heartily recommend this one. Adapted from Sohla El-Waylly’s recipe in Bon Appétit, this orecchiette is a vivid, shocking green, mellow with yoghurt and bright with fresh herbs, plus still-in-season wild garlic. More a garnish than the starring event, the spiced lamb mince, studded with butter-browned pine nuts, adds heft and a Middle Eastern flavour profile. The result is a dish that’s vivid and hearty, delicate and complex; a postcard from spring’s verdant world, perfect for those who have been sequestered inside long enough to miss the peak of the season. (At least you can still taste it.)

As for a pairing: while many assume lamb can only ever be served with red wine, I’m here to offer evidence to the contrary. This wine – made by cult-favourite sommelier-turned-winemaker Brad Hickey – hails from South Australia and is made with the fragrant Zibibbo grape. The wine is left on its skins in amphorae for a whopping 150 days and, well, it’s a little bit shocking – in a good way. When I first tasted it with Jen, we were overwhelmed by its musky aromatics of peach, mango, apricot and elderflower. We thought it tasted uncannily like a pale ale – specifically one made with punchy, tropical Citra hops.

I’ve served Citra-led beers with lamb and wild garlic before and can report the flavours work just as well together this time around. The wine’s ample fruitfulness is dreamy with the tangy herb sauce, while its richer, tannic structure from the prolonged skin contact means it can handle the lamb’s salt and fat. On the next warm day, pop it open, find a patch of sun and close your eyes: you could almost be feet from the Mediterranean.

Orecchiette with Yoghurty Herb Sauce and Spiced Lamb
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 4

For the sauce:
500ml plain kefir (or Greek yoghurt, thinned out with milk until just pourable)
3 egg yolks
30g wild garlic leaves (see substitution options in instructions)
30g mint leaves
30g basil leaves
Pinch sea salt
Pinch sugar

For the lamb and pasta:
45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
100g pine nuts
500g orecchiette
Sea salt 250g lamb mince
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. First, make the yoghurty sauce. To a blender, add the kefir (or Greek yoghurt), the egg yolks and the herbs. (If you can’t find wild garlic, substitute with two minced cloves of garlic and 30g of another fresh, leafy herb – dill, coriander or parsley could all work.) Blend until bright green and uniform. Season with the sea salt and sugar and blend again. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Set aside.

2. Next, prep your pine nuts. Add the butter to a small frying pan and place over medium-high heat. As soon as it’s melted, add the pine nuts. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the butter browns – it will foam up and darken quickly, and start smelling very nutty. Keep an eye on it, as the colour changes quickly. Once tawny-brown, remove from the heat and leave to cool.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the orecchiette. Cook according to package instructions until al dente.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the lamb. Place a large frying pan over high heat; once hot, add the lamb and press into a single, thin layer. Sprinkle over the spices, plus ½ teaspoon salt. Leave undisturbed for several minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom. Break up with a spoon into small crumbles and toss. Mix in the toasted pine nuts and butter. Taste and season with any additional salt if necessary and remove from the heat.

5. When the pasta is done, drain and return to the saucepan. Pour over the reserved yoghurt sauce and place over medium heat. Stir constantly for approximately 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and clings to the pasta and is just beginning to simmer.

6. Remove from the heat and divide the pasta between bowls. Top with the lamb and pine nut mixture and serve.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription boxes.