WHEN I was younger I was skint but had a girlfriend whose stepfather was a butcher. So I got a tip or two about meat.
The one I remember best was to buy a breast of lamb and roast it. It might be fatty and a little greasy but you got a mouthful of crispy skin and sweet meat for just pennies. (Another was to buy bacon bits and misshapes ‘for a quiche’ which always got diverted to Sunday breakfast.)
Years flew by and I was better off and forgot about breast of lamb. As it fell out of fashion it also fell out of the shops, as did another inexpensive morsel, sweetbreads. I seldom saw it on menus except once some years ago at the Wig & Pen in Campo Lane.
I had to ring to make sure it was on that night. As I recall it cost a fortune for something so cheap. Fellow blogger Craig Harris tells me it used to appear on dishes such as ‘lamb three ways’ although that must have passed me by.
I was at Thicketts the butchers on Sharrowvale Road recently and for some reason asked if they sold it. They did but I would have to order it. “Only pensioners ask for it these days and people buy it for their dogs. Younger people don’t know what to do with it,” I was told.
Now that’s a shame because this is the equivalent of pork belly and we all know the good things you can do with that.
The lamb breast, just £3, was ready the following Saturday and I had it neatly boned. I kept them. They went in the freezer along with others for a stock.
I had forgotten how I cooked it so l looked for recipes. There are lots of fancy ways. Ramsay braises his then cuts the meat into noisettes and crisps them off.
I didn’t want things to get too complicated so, after halving it and putting the remainder in the freezer, simply seasoned, made a stuffing of garlic, rosemary and anchovy fillets (I wouldn’t have done that back then), tied it in a piece, browned it off and roasted it at 150C under aluminium foil for two hours till tende. Then I whacked up the heat to 200C to crisp.
It cut into three roundels and tasted fine. It wasn’t that greasy as the fat had poured off- and the skin was crispy-sweet. The anchovy added a little piquancy. I served it with pommes dauphinoise and purple sprouting broccoli.
My wife didn’t like the sound of it so had a lamb steak.
I might try a classic French recipe with the other half when I am using the oven for another dish. The breast is roasted flat, again slow and low, or braised, for 2-3 hours until tender, drained, cooled overnight in the fridge, then cut into strips, floured, egged and breadcrumbed, then fried. Sort of lamb, not fish, fingers.
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