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.
Prepare whatever roast veggies you prefer (I did spuds and sweet potato) and start these at the appropriate time. You could even have yorkshire puddings (we did!).
Then in due course get the joint out to rest, prepare your green veg and gravy, and dish up. Add some nice fruit jelly, if you have some. Crab apple and chilli jelly was a perfect accompaniment.
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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That looks and sounds delicious. Though lamb is indeed hard to find here. Thanks!
Thanks Joe – do try it if you manage to lay your hands on some – should be quite straightforward to paleo as the breadcrumbs are just a carrier, you could easily substitute finely chopped mushrooms or something? I forget here in the UK that not everyone has access to lots of beautiful lamb!
Cooked this last night, came out beautifully, Have tried cooking with lamb breast a couple times, to no real success. only variation i made was i cooked a half breast in a pyrex dish with a lid.
On a side note sainsbury’s lamb breast, £4 a lb (£8.42 per kg) vs local butcher £5.49 kg. my OH had a sainsbury joint in the freezer, so used that to avoid wastage, but i am almost salavating at the thought, and also wondering if it is possible, that this will taste better next time.
Great blog btw, bookmarked and shall be following closely. 🙂
Thank you Bekki, for your kind words and for taking the time to stop and let me know how it worked out for you! Without doubt one of my favourite roast dinners. I bet the butcher’s lamb will be *spectacular*!
My Nan used to make this and my mom; i used to take the ribs out for her – I still make it and we often refer to it as “Poor Man’s Roast” It really does come out a treat!! And is still one of my favorite roast dinners.
Hi Christine, glad you like it – the flavour’s particularly good, I think, and certainly we like it at least as much, if not more so, than more traditional roasts like leg of lamb.