Where last week’s jaunt into the culinary underbelly was nothing short of cerebral, this edition sees us travelling to, well, the underbelly.
Breast of lamb, a cut near identical to pork or beef short ribs, is criminally underused and as a result is almost giveaway cheap. It has featured on these pages before (paired with lamb’s kidneys) but it really is delicious enough to stand-alone.
For the gastronomically minded, it can be used to make lamb ‘bacon’ and it is a cut gaining in popularity amongst top-end chefs - Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 features breast of lamb on his menu.
Whilst I’m not averse to tinkering with high end cooking: dishes that take days, rather than hours, to plate up and consist of a dizzying combination of foams, airs, purées, spheres, mousses, geleés, crisps and other such assorted tom-foolery, sometimes what you really want is hearty and basic.
Lamb and beans is a classic combination throughout France and North Africa. Slow cooked shanks with flageolet beans. Lamb stew with white beans and fresh coriander. Rack of lamb with a bean cassoulet.
Whatever the combination there is something hearty, warming and satisfying about the taste of the meat – now beginning to develop some flavour (I find spring lamb over-rated and lacking in flavour) – and the fulfilling nature of the beans.
Breast of Lamb roasted with onion and spiced chick peas (garbanzo beans)
Although there isn’t an awful lot of meat on this particular cut, it is fatty and the inherent richness should leave you feeling sated without being overly full. As the lamb roasts it will release its moisture into the bed of chickpeas waiting expectantly below. The result is some of the tastiest pulses you will ever chow down.
A single piece of lamb breast should easily serve three-four people, depending on how long it has been since they last ate and whether or not they are the sort of friends happy to be fobbed off with extra pulses and veg instead of meat. Thought not. The recipe below is for two.
Lamb breast, about 500g in weight.
An unwaxed lemon
Oregano (dried or fresh, finely chopped – as much as you want)
Salt and pepper
Zest the lemon and juice half of it into a bowl. Add the same amount of olive oil, the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Slash the top of the lamb and rub the mixture into it.
For the chickpeas
One tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed
One large white onion, finely diced
One large red onion, roughly chopped
Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A teaspoon of smoked paprika
Salt and Pepper
Four or five sprigs of fresh oregano
A splash of olive oil
Mix all the above together and tip into a roasting tray (large enough to hold the lamb).
Get a ridged griddle pan screamingly hot (leave it on there for five minutes before you even think of cooking on it. Seriously. These things take an age to get hot).
Sear the lamb for four-five minutes until it has some good colour on one side. Flip and cook for another couple of minutes. Place the lamb on top of the chickpeas and roast in a moderately hot oven (c. 150 degrees C) for about an hour and a half. Give the tray a shake a couple of times during cooking.
Lift the lamb onto a cutting board and leave it to rest whilst you are plating up. Pile a heap of baby spinach leaves into the middle of a plate, top with the roasted chickpeas and hunks of meat that you have delicately carved/hacked mercilessly from the bones.
Ideally, serve in front of episodes of the West Wing with a crisp white wine for company.
Feel free to gnaw away at the meat still clinging to the ribs. I did. ‘You are such a shameless carnivore,’ said the GF. If I had been in a position to answer, I wouldn’t have been able to deny it.
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