Breast of lamb is a rather unfashionable cut these days. In my household it’s usually known as ‘lamb belly’ by analogy with the matching cut of pork. It’s made up of the abdominal body wall, starting with some ribs just in front of the diaphragm and extending backwards. Folded in three and wrapped in cling-film, it’s a rather uninspiring looking cut. You won’t get it at the supermarket, and it won’t be on display at the butchers, but if you ask it’s likely you’ll get a whole one for not much more than £1. With a very little bit of effort, you have one of the most cost effective (and tasty!) roast dinners you can buy.
We first discovered breast of lamb when we started buying half-lambs from local smallholders. I wish I’d discovered it when I was a student, I could have had some fantastic roast Sunday dinners on a budget!
This is a great meal made almost entirely from the store cupboard. You will need:
- One breast of lamb
- Some breadcrumbs
- An onion (red or white)
- Garlic, several cloves
- Rosemary, thyme, sage (fresh or dried)
- One egg
- Kitchen / butchers string
- Potatoes / parsnips / sweet potatoes / swede
- Some green veg (I had some frozen peas, but anything will do)
First of all you have a little bit of butchery to do. It’s unlikely the ribs will have been trimmed out, so you’ll have to do this yourself. Be careful, and patiently cut around and along each rib with a paring knife and lift it out from the ‘inside’ of the breast. With practice this is no more than a five minute job, though it might take a bit longer to start with. It’s likely your breast has been in the fridge, so the meat will be cold. Stop if you notice your fingertips getting numb, and rinse them under warm water to warm them up again – you’ll have less sensory feedback from cold fingertips and you’re much more likely to make a mistake and cut yourself – which is not the aim of the exercise!
Try to preserve as much meat as you can attached to the breast – but if you accidentally cut a piece off (and there are some annoying bits of diaphragm which are quite tricky to keep attached) just put it back as you’ll be rolling and tying the ‘joint’ later.
Now make the stuffing. Mix the finely chopped onion, crushed / minced garlic, breadcrumbs, herbs and egg together. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Then spread this across the inside of the breast and roll it up, starting at the narrow end (where the ribs weren’t).
Tie the rolled joint up with string using a butchers knot. This involves making a series of linked loops and tying off at both ends, and is a useful knack to learn. It’s also not dissimilar to the knotting technique used for casting a cow! Put the rolled join in a roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with pepper and dried rosemary, and put into a low oven (about 160C) for two and a half hours.
This is a fabulous roast dinner, and will serve three or four for nearly nothing – we’re greedy so it fed two hungry adults! Serve with a nice beer or a glass of red wine, and enjoy!
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