Monday, 17 September 2012

Lamb breast roast

I'm hoping this hasn't got everyone going yuck at just the thought of it.  One thing I grew up with was meat very well cooked and that the cheaper cuts often had better and richer flavours when cooked well. I get a bit bewildered when people turn their noses up at pork belly and lamb breast because they are fatty.  Well yes they are, unless they are cooked well that is. 
Often I am gobsmacked at the price of lamb, and then amazed at the big pieces of lamb breast that one butcher virtually gives away at a pound a breast because he just wants rid of it.  Yesterdays Sunday dinner consisted of a roasted lamb breast I had picked up in the reduced section in a supermarket at a ridiculous price.   It was easily big enough to feed 4 people had we not been greedy and eaten half of it before we served it up! Very often these don't have bones in but if they do ignore them as they will just pull out easily when cooked like this.

So I thought I would share how I treat this much overlooked joint and turn it into a lovely offering.
We start with the stuffing.  Yes you could grab a just add water pack but I save odds and ends of loaves of bread and blitz them to crumbs and freeze them ready for when I need breadcrumbs ( thrifty and frugal to the last it seems I am ) I used a

good 3 big handfuls of breadcrumbs
finely chopped small onion
2 cloves garlic crushed
small bunch of thyme stripped off the stems
lots of salt and pepper
1 egg.

Being the lamb was going to cook for a long time I didn't cook the onion or garlic off in butter/oil to soften first but if using in something that needed a shorter cooking time I usually would cook slowly until soft then cool down before mixing in.
I used thyme because that is what I have on the windowsill in a glass of water.  sage, parsley or other herbs could be used with various fruits or spices added in to

I know this doesn't look to thrilling mixed together and a bit pale and uninteresting. But the smells from the thyme, garlic and onion where mouth watering :o) 

I took the string off the lamb next and rolled it open skin/fat side/outside down on the board and sometimes the lamb is in one piece and sometimes it has leaves almost like a book.  This one was almost book like so I divided the stuffing into 2 and spread it over the leaves of lamb (try saying that 5 times in a row drunk) 


this needs to be packed in firmly and great for heavy handed kids to come along and slap and push it in roughly leaving small gaps around the outside. Then roll it back up and tie up with suitable string, or even skewers if you have them.  I am no good at knot tying as you can see by the bows in the next pic, but at least it is all contained :o)

Season heavily and place in a low oven and in lower third of oven at around a gas mark 2.  I left mine in for around 3 hours on really low while I got on with the mornings activities.  It slowly cooked and the fat layers filtered though the meat and stuffing basting the layers and leaving amazing flavours as it did.  
Later on I needed to cook my roast potatoes so the heat of oven was cranked up to a suitable heat and meat left where it was.  Now anyone not feeding a vegetarian son would perhaps use a bigger tin and cook their potatoes and parsnips in around the lamb. And would be rewarded with gorgeous veg so feel free.  I did mine in a separate tin and all was still well.  

After 1 hour and 20 minutes of the potatoes cooking at gas mark 6 ish the lamb came out to rest while the Yorkshire puddings went in.  At this point I removed the lamb from the tin to rest on a plate.  I drained the fat from the tin and was left with a shocking amount that almost filled my capucino cup I save for such things. and after 10-15 minutes resting I cut into large chunky slices and put back in tin in base of oven to warm up. 

The skin at this point has no fat under it. It is papery and crackly and a joy to nibble on.  The meat is juicy and succulent but not fatty.  The taste is rich and the stuffing a lovely compliment to the meat. 

I carved 4 very chunky slices.  This meat falls to bits so easily there is no way I could do it more elegantly. 

It really annoys me at times when people turn up their noses at these 'cheaper cuts'  cheaper doesn't really mean they are nasty.  With a little bit of time and care a £1 piece of breast like this with a few cheap additions can feed a family of 4 an amazing roast dinner :o) 
I like a fore rib of beef as much as the next person, but, budget wise no way am I going to be putting a fore rib on the table very often and not be eating baked beans for a month to make up for it ( and I hate baked beans)