25 July 2016

Lamb Breast, braised artichokes and broad beans, and caper and anchovy mayo

Lamb is a pretty expensive meat these days. With the modern interest in slow cooking, once cheaper cuts like shoulder and shank command a similar premium to the classic roasting joints like leg and best end. The only really cheap cut of lamb is the breast, which is a thin strip of meat, about 2 feet long that is taken off the ribs and belly of the animal. Like pork belly, it contains layers of meat and fat, and if cooked properly can be delicious. I took the inspiration for this method of cooking lamb breast from Elizabeth David's recipe for lamb breast Ste Menehould in her classic book, French Provincial Cooking, paired it with some seasonal veg from the garden and gave it a modern twist.

As with many cheaper cuts of meat, lamb breast requires a bit of work to make it tasty. Here, the lamb breast is first braised, them pressed overnight, before being cut into strips, breadcrumbed and grilled. The result is a crispy coating covering unctuous melt-in-the-mouth lamb. You'll need to start work on this the day before you want to eat it, but for much of the cooking time the lamb breast can be left to its own devices so don't be put off. One lamb breast should be enough to feed two to three people.



1 lamb breast
0.5 litre white/chicken stock
1 carrot
1 small bunch parsley stalks
a couple of thyme sprigs
5 peppercorns
1 juniper berry
1 garlic clove
2 small artichokes
500g broad beans (unpodded weight)
1 egg and two egg yolks
50g flour
50g breadcrumbs
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 small tin anchovies
1 tbsp capers, drained
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
500ml sunflower oil
white wine vinegar and lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper
1tsp dijon mustard
50g butter

Lamb breast

Pre-heat the oven to 120C.

Start by trimming any gristle or sinew from the lamb breast. The lower section of the lamb breast will contain some ribs. It is best to take these off before cooking, along with the layer of silverskin between the ribs and the meat. Place the lamb breast in a large pan or deep oven tray. Cover with the stock, and add the carrot (which should be peeled and cut into large chunks), parsley stalks, thyme, peppercorns, juniper and garlic clove. The ribs that were trimmed off can be placed in the pan for extra flavour. Bring to a simmer on the stove, cover directly with a cartouche (a piece of greaseproof paper trimmed to the size of the cooking vessel), and then with either with a lid or foil. Place in the oven. Check periodically to ensure the liquid is not boiling - if so turn it down.

Cook the lamb breast for about 3 hours, by which point it should be very tender. Whilst still warm, press the lamb breast in its braising liquor by placing a smaller tray on top and placing something heavy on the second tray. Once cool, place in the fridge and press overnight.

The following day, remove the lamb from the liquor, wipe off any gelatine that is clinging to the meat and cut into strips. You should be able to get anywhere between six to nine good strips out of a breast, plus a few smaller bits.

To breadcrumb the lamb breast, take three shallow containers or trays. Place the flour in one, season with a little salt and pepper and mix in the mustard powder and paprika. Break one egg into another container, and mix in 1tbsp dijon mustard. Place the breadcrumbs in the final container. Coat the strips of lamb first in the flour, then the egg/mustard and finally in the breadcrumbs, ensuring all the pieces are evenly coated. Set aside until ready to cook.

For the mayonnaise, drain the anchovies and place in the goblet of a food processor along with the capers and blitz, scraping down the sides a couple of times. Add two egg yolks and approx 1 tsp white wine vinegar and blitz until well combined and the egg yolks have turned a pale yellow colour. With the motor running, slowly pour in the sunflower and olive oil so that it emulsifies into the egg. I find that holding the food processor at an angle so that the mayo collects more in one side of the processor goblet helps the whole process. Add the mustard, and extra vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. I put the mayo in a squeezy bottle for easy serving.

For the artichoke and broad bean braise, trim the artichokes and set aside in acidulated water. (See here for instructions on trimming artichokes.) Pod the broad beans. Place the artichokes in a pan with the stock used to cook the lamb. Cover with a cartouche and bring to a simmer. Once the artichokes start to soften, add the podded broad beans, bring back to the simmer and cook until all the elements are cooked through. Remove the veg and boil the remaining stock hard until a coating consistency is achieved. Place the veg back in the pan and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 50g butter in a small pan and preheat a grill. Place the breadcrumbed strips of lamb under the grill and cook until the breadcrumb coating colours, basting occasionally with a little of the melted butter.

Arrange the veg and two or three strips of lamb on each plate, along with some mayo and a couple of picked chervil leaves.

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