Spring lamb salad with a minted dressing
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
This makes a great starter or light main course and you can really use any cut (or cuts) of lamb. I’ve used the neck fillet here, as it’s nice and tender on young lamb, together with some slices of liver, but you could use a mixture of your favourite cuts and offal-cooked pink and sliced up. You could also slow-cook some belly until crisp, shred it and scatter over the salad.
I prefer to use salads and herbs from the garden, as they’re much more tasty than those limp, shop-bought leaves. A combination of flat parsley, chervil, bittercress and a little mint works well. As your garden develops in the spring, you may want to add some pea shoots, rocket leaves, chives and other small salad leaves, or perhaps even some peas and beans later in the season.
2 pieces of lamb neck fillet, about 200g (7oz) in total
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 slices of lamb’s liver, 120-150g (4-5oz) in total
A few slices of roasted breast of lamb (see below), optional
A couple of handfuls of small salad and herb leaves (flat leaf parsley, chervil, bitter-cress, mint, etc)
For the dressing
2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grain mustard
A few mint leaves
6-7 tablespoons olive oil
Season the pieces of lamb. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the lamb fillet for about 4-5 minutes on each side until pink. Remove from the pan and set aside on a warm plate to rest.
For the dressing, whizz all the ingredients together in a blender and season to taste. Just before serving, fry the liver in the pan over a high heat for about 30 seconds on each side, then remove and cut into strips. Briefly warm the slices of cooked breast if using.
To serve, toss the leaves in the dressing and arrange on serving plates. Slice the lamb fillet and arrange it on top with the liver and roasted breast if using.
Slow-cooked stuffed breast of lamb with wild garlic and fennel sauce
Breast of lamb is one of the most under-used cuts. Its fattiness puts people off, but, stuffed and slowly cooked, it makes a tasty, cheap meal. Use a lesser cut to stuff the breast with, such as minced shin or neck, or incorporate offal. Fennel may not seem like an obvious partner, but its subtle aniseed flavour works a treat.
1 breast of lamb weighing about 500g (1lb), boned
1 bulb of fennel, halved and finely shredded
1 onion, peeled, halved and finely shredded
3 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
For the stuffing
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
200g coarsely minced lamb neck or shin and/or a mix of sweetbreads, liver, heart and kidney
Salt and black pepper
A couple of handfuls of wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
To make the stuffing, cook the onion in the butter for a couple of minutes until soft, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Mix with the minced lamb, then roughly chop a third of the wild garlic; fold into the mix and season. Lay the lamb on a work surface and lay the stuffing down the centre, then roll it up tightly and tie with string every 2cm-3cm.
Pre-heat the oven to 220˚C/gas mark 7. Heat a roasting pan in the oven for 10 minutes, season the lamb, then roast for 25-30 minutes, turning every so often. Turn the oven down to 160˚C/gas mark 3. Remove the lamb. Scatter the fennel and onion in the centre of the roasting tray and place the lamb on top. Return to the oven for two hours, basting every so often.
Give the fennel and onions an occasional stir; if they’re browning too much, cover the lamb with foil. Once cooked, remove the lamb and keep warm in foil. Transfer the fennel and onion to a saucepan with the cooking juices and 3tbsp-4tbsp of water. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then chop the rest of the wild garlic leaves and add to the sauce.
Coarsely blend half the sauce in a blender or a food processor; return to the pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes. To serve, remove the string from the lamb and cut into 1cm-2cm slices.
Mark Hix’s ‘Seasonal Food’ is available from Quadrille at £25
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