While Easter may be a time of celebration, I am trying to be frugal and am interested in cooking some of the less popular cuts of meat, which are often the least expensive ones too. Breast of lamb, which is the lamb equivalent of pork belly, has fallen out of favour, probably because it is quite fatty and needs long, slow cooking. However, its fattiness is actually part of the charm of lamb breast, which encompasses thin layers of lean meat, sandwiched between layers of fat. Long cooking renders out the fat, leaving the sweet intense flavour of lamb meat.
Lamb also benefits from the flavours of the middle east, such as cumin and coriander, which is why I had decided to use ras el hanout. However, if you don't have this, then replace it with a mixture of cumin, coriander, chili and cinnamon.
You can make a traditional stuffing with breadcrumbs, but I like to use couscous. While you would normally drizzle couscous with olive oil, you need to leave this out of the stuffing as the lamb is fatty and the couscous will help to absorb the excess fat. When using the couscous as stuffing I also use less liquid to cook the couscous as it will swell up during the roasting. If you are nervous about this then cook the couscous according to the instructions on the packet!
|roast breast of lamb|
Skill level: Easy
2 x breasts of lamb, about 600g each
water or wine
220g instant couscous
about 350ml hot vegetable stock
zest and juice of 1 x fresh lemon
1 tbsp Seasoned Pioneers' ras el hanout (or Moroccan spice mix)
50g dried apricots, finely chopped (or other dried fruit. Sour cherries would work very well too)
1 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
- Prepare the stuffing by putting the couscous in a medium sized bowl and adding the vegetable stock, fresh lemon juice and ras el hanout spice mix. Stir well. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside, to allow the couscous to absorb the stock. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the chopped apricots, lemon zest and herbs. Stir well to combine. Check the seasoning.
- Unroll the lamb breasts and trim off any obvious flaps of fat. Score the fat side of the meat with a very sharp knife or Stanley knife.
- Season the lamb and spread the stuffing over the lamb, leaving a margin of space along the edges and at the ends of the breast. (If there is too much stuffing, don't worry. I set this aside, add a little olive oil and serve as an extra side dish).
- Tightly roll up the meat (from the short end) and tie with string.
- Place in a roasting tin, together with the halves of the juice lemon.
- Roast for about 1½ hours. Check every 20 minutes or so to ensure that the meat does not dry out and that it is not browning too rapidly. If it appears dry, add a wine glass of either water or wine. Cover with foil.
- When ready, wrap tightly with foil and leave to rest for about 15 minutes while you prepare the accompaniments.
- Serve with roast potatoes, pureed carrots and spring vegetables such as broad beans and any of the leftover couscous stuffing, drizzled with a little olive oil. In the summer I also like to serve this with stuffed tomatoes.
- You can serve with a gravy or just spoon over any of the juices. While they will be quite fatty, they will be oozing with middle eastern spice flavours.
- The Victorians were very fond of leftover lamb breast - sliced, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried. Known as epigrams, they were often served with a sauce such as bearnaise.