My old roommate N is a fan of garlic. I haven’t lived with her for over ten years, since we were in graduate school together, but I remember vividly the image of her crushing garlic and salt with a huge butcher’s knife, and folding little mountains of garlic paste into caesar salad dressing, soup, or skordalia. She is also a real northern Californian foodie, serious about the kind of high-quality fresh ingredients that are second nature in West Coast farmers’ markets. When we lived together, her mother (a professional food writer) actually FedExed tomatoes to the East Coast, which I thought was kind of crazy until I tasted them.

So when a conference brought N to visit me, I immediately considered what I would cook for her. We don’t have California levels of beautiful produce here but we do have some lovely local food in the summer. I figured that what would make her happiest would be the simplest presentation of Sussex foods…with a healthy dose of young garlic to keep things interesting. I got a lovely rolled lamb shoulder from the butcher and slathered it generously with a mixture of olive oil, salt, and a head of young garlic pounded to a paste. There are lots of nooks and crannies in a rolled shoulder that you can stuff garlic paste into. I roasted it for an hour and then sliced it and topped with mint salsa.

The salsa was pretty simple too: I just chopped a bunch of spring onions, two long green chilies, four tomatoes, a small handful of cilantro and a big handful of mint. Mix together, salt generously, and squeeze over the juice of a lime. It’s a simple summer foil to the roast lamb.

To round out the meal, I added local chard wilted with a little agrodolce, and Jersey royal potatoes tossed in butter and mint.

N and I had a great time catching up, sharing photos and hanging out on the beach. This super casual meal – so casual none of it really calls for a recipe – isn’t the most complicated thing I’ve ever cooked but it was definitely reflective of laid-back British summer eating. Now, if we could just arrange for the sun to come back…?

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