Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Moroccan style roast lamb breast with lemon broad beans

Breast of lamb is a much underrated cut, usually overlooked in favour of shoulder or leg even though it makes a very good roast. It's cheap too (£3-4 average) and because it's small, it's ideal for the lone-dwelling cook. You'll have enough for a main meal and enough leftovers for sandwiches, a pilaf or risotto.

It's easy to make a mess of roast breast - it needs a good blast of heat to start with the a long, slow spell if it's not to end up greasy with a rubbery skin and chewy meat. Follow the rules to turn it into a dazzling dinner - tender and flavoursome.

This cut tends to be stuffed with the usual garlic and rosemary but, as mutton is eaten widely across north Africa, I prefer to give it a Moroccan twist with a good dollop of chermoula. The chillies and lemon help tenderise the flesh, while packing in extra flavour.

The warm side dish of lemon broad beans also originates from Morocco.

What you need: 
1 lamb breast
Chermoula paste
100 g fresh or frozen broad beans (podded weight)
1 preserved lemon
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Half a dozen black olives, stoned and sliced
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp each of cumin and paprika
A little chopped coriander
Salt and pepper

What to do:
Make the chermoula paste. If the meat has already been rolled and tied with butcher's string, cut it off and unroll it. Put the meat skin-side down on a chopping board and spread a very generous heaped tablespoon of chermoula all over it, working the paste into every nook and cranny and ensuring all the flesh is coated. Roll it up tightly again and secure it with butcher's string or a couple of metal skewers. Pop it on a plate, cover it with cling film and leave it in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight if you can).

To cook it, heat the oven to 220C and roast it for 25 minutes. The skin should be starting to turn crispy. Turn the oven down to 160C, then roast it for another 2 hours, giving it a good basting every half-hour with its juices. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes after it comes out the oven.

To make the beans, boil them for 2-3 minutes in salted water, drain and cool quickly under cold running water. Leave to drain again then slip off the tough outer skins. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan and gently fry the spices and garlic. Add the beans, lemon juice and finely chopped preserved lemon. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, adding the olives for the last couple of minutes. Season to taste and garnish with the chopped coriander.
Cook's tips:
Breast of lamb can be very fatty so choose one that has a good ratio of meat to fat. If you're buying from a butcher and he's cutting it off the carcass for you, make sure he takes the ribs out. Don't undercook it - for such a small joint, it's easy to think it won't need too long in the oven. Trust me, it does. A lot of fat will come off during cooking, even off a lean cut. The skin should be wonderfully thin and crispy at the end.

I do advise boiling and skinning the broad beans ahead - I tend to do the skinning on the sofa as it's the sort of mindless task you can get on with while watching TV. You can finish all the rest of the dish while the meat is resting.