Yet another lamb breast (belly?) recipe from me. Again, I won’t apologise for that – this is a thrifty, delicious and underused cut of meat, so you should give it a go. The frustrating art of rolling and tying meat is also tremendously satisfying once done and your weekly allowance of expletives are off your chest.
On which note, I reckon the best way to tie meat is to hoist a slip knot in place every 1.5-2cm. Secure that with a normal knot. I’m really not very good at remembering how to tie them – so if I can get there eventually, you can too. Just take a look at a few (relevant) videos first. This BBC one is nicely paced and helpful.
Rolled lamb breast is particularly good for entertaining lots of people – because it’s cheap, because most of the work is done well in advance, and because you basically can’t overcook it. Serve with boiled spuds and seasonal greens laced with fresh mint. These are clean and fresh flavours, which will counterbalance and cut through the fat of the meat.
Rolled lamb breast
Easily feeds 4, probably more.
- 2 lamb breasts, ribs removed (you can ask the butcher to do this)
- 1 tin anchovies in oil
- 6 cloves garlic
- 20 twigs of thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 1 onion, peeled, halved, each half quartered
- 1 stick celery, cut into inch long pieces
- 1.5 star anise
- 200g water
- Vegetable oil for browning
- String / cook’s twine
Start by squaring off the breast. You will be left with a triangular ‘scrap’. Place this on the rectangular breast piece. You’ll find that there’s be thicker and thinner bits of the main piece – the triangular part help to even things out.
Finely chop 2 of the garlic cloves. Remove the anchovies from the oil and chop. Strip the thyme leaves from the woodiest of stems. Put all of these things in a bowl with a pinch of black pepper and the oil from the anchovies. Mix together. Spread over the lamb flesh.
Now you need to roll and tie the breasts. I’m pretty bad at this … but always get there in the end. It’s very satisfying once done. There are two ways to do it, but I think the best and easiest is to tie slip knots and secure the roll every 1 -2 cm. Don’t do it too tightly as the meat expands when cooking. Tie off each knot securely.
When you’re ready, heat the oven to 140C. Put the onion, celery, star anise, remaining garlic and water into a deep roasting tray. Brown the rolled breasts in hot oil.
Place the browned breasts on top of the base vegetables. Measure out a piece of greaseproof paper just bigger than the tray. Get that wet, crumple, then uncrumple and place over the lamb, tuck the edges into the tray. Cover the tray tightly with foil. Put in the middle of your oven and braise for 3 hours.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool with the foil still on. Once cool, remove the lamb from the liquid (and fat) and put in the fridge and chill completely (overnight is good). Chill the fat and juices too. When cold, the fat (there’ll be a lot of it …) can be scraped off. Reduce the juices and you’ll have an awesome gravy.
Remove from the fridge and slice the rolled breasts into 3-4 cm discs.
30-45 minutes before you wish to feast, place the portions on a shallow tray and bung that in an oven that’s been heated to 190C. Turn the pieces over after 20 minutes. You want the outside to brown, the fat to continue rendering out. The meat will be tender, moist and delicious.
Eat with boiled / steamed seasonal vegetable and new potatoes. Mix lots of chopped mint through the greens. Stunner.