Lamb breasts are one of the lesser known cuts of meat, most of them are used to make doner kebabs in the UK (know as Gyros in Greece and America). While this meat is a little bit tough, a long slow cook will make it succulent and tender. The most common way of cooking breast of lamb is to stuff it and roll it up. Sausage meat is often used as stuffing and it sometimes comes this way pre-prepared. This is also the cut of meat required for Breast of lamb St Ménéhould, as recorded by Elizabeth David in her book, An Omelette And A Glass Of Wine.
Lamb breast is normally sold boned and ready rolled, in pieces weighing about 500g. Lamb goes very well with anchovies and garlic – here I’ve added cumin, relative to the way in which the Moors cooked lamb in Spain, which in turn led to the way in which the Spanish cook pork.
500g breast of lamb
6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
3 large squirts of anchovy paste or 3 salted anchovies
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon thyme
a pinch of sea salt
10 back peppercorns
a drizzle of olive oil
Heat half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and when you smell them warming, grind up (using a mortar and pestle) with a teaspoon thyme, a pinch of salt and 10 black peppercorns.
Unroll the lamb breast and spread the anchovy paste on the inside. Do use 3 tinned anchovy fillets if you don’t have the paste, the end result will taste the same. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and the cumin mixture. Alternately, use sausage meat, breadcrumbs …and I even considered crab or black pudding!
Roll the lamb back up and retie it. My ties were elasticated, but if not, this is how to tie a simple butcher’s knot.
Braised Breast of Lamb (serves 2 greedy people):
500g breast of lamb (stuffed)
3 slices streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
a handful fresh coriander (chopped)
1/3rd pint chicken stock
a splash sherry vinegar
a splash dry white wine
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil
Brown the rolled lamb in a little olive oil, sprinkling on a little salt and pepper.
Remove to a plate when done.
Gently fry the chopped onion in plenty of extra virgin olive oil.
When the onion goes translucent, add the bacon.
Stir the bacon until it takes a little colour and mix in the other vegetables.
Add the coriander, or substitute parsley if you are not a fan!
After 5 minutes or so, return the lamb to the casserole.
Pour on the stock, wine and sherry vinegar. When the liquid starts to bubble, put the lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 160ºC for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
As the oven is on, peel and cube a few potatoes. Bring to the boil in salted water, drain and allow the potatoes to dry in their own steam.
Sprinkle the potatoes with 1/2 teaspoon of pimentón de la Vera dulce. Heat some olive oil in an oven dish, add the cubed potatoes and agitate every 10 minutes or so. These take about 90 minutes.
Turn the lamb breast occasionally. You will know it is done when the meat yields to the fork.
Roast the potatoes until golden.
Leave the lid off to brown the meat and thicken the sauce for 20 minutes when the lamb is tender.
Slice the lamb and serve with the potatoes and seasonal vegetables. This will produce meat every bit as tender as the best leg of lamb. I recommend a glass or two of Oveja Tinta Graciano from Bodegas Fontana, with the lamb.