Monday 9 November 2009

The Sacristan's Supper

Talk about a variety performance, this blog has everything! Ever wondered what an Anglo-Catholic Sacristan eats for supper on weeknights? Well, this time of year, before the Christmas spend, I can tell you that I'm looking for economy, as well as something hearty to warm my cockles (actually I don't eat cockles). So I came home today from work puzzling over a cheap joint I picked up over the weekend: breast of lamb. What? Lambs don't have breasts! Well, this is the lamby equivalent of the pork belly, which is so IN right now. Lambs, of course, being gamblers, haven't got much meat down there on the "breast" so hardly anyone actually wants or buys it. This cut is a give away, literally in some places, because it's virtually inedible without long, slow cooking. Whatever you do with it, you'll probably be wanting to pick most of the fat away from the flesh on your plate, but during the long cooking process, the meat will become so soft and juicy that it just about makes it worth the effort.

So I decided to improvise a roasted lamb breast with herby stuffing with roast vegetables and braised red cabbage, a meal assembled from hallucinations of Saturday Kitchen and endless googling.

So start with your rolled breast joint. This one weighs aroung half a kilo and cost me £2.50 in Sainos. To make the stuffing, mix the chopped leaves of two or three sprigs each of rosemary and thyme with a few slices worth of breadcrumbs (here I've just mashed up some old baguette, but it's better if it's finer than this) with an egg, a small onion and three cloves of garlic. Mix and mash thoroughly. Keep the stems of your herbs to one side.

Untie your breast and season well with salt and pepper. Don't throw the strings away, as you will need them shortly. My joint came with some extra pieces in the middle. I trimmed these down, as there was enough fat on the joint, but take off any meat and keep it to one side.

Next, impose dabs of garlic butter and a generous helping of fresh sage leaves onto your breast joint. Try to cover as much of the surface as possible with your leaves.

Next spread your stuffing over the joint, and place your extra pieces of breast meat somewhere near the middle.

Roll the joint carefully to keep as much as the stuffing in as possible, and tie with the strings. Place the joint in an appropriate tin and put into the oven at gas mark three or four.

You will want something tart with this breast cut, because of the unseemly amounts of fat in it. I went for braised red cabbage because it's very seasonal. Gently fry some onions in garlic butter and olive oil, or plain butter and add some garlic to taste.

Finely shred half a red cabbage. Don't forget to check your lamb. Baste regularly with the fat to keep the exposed edges moist but drain off any that collects and keep to one side.

When the onions are translucent, add the cabbage, along with a glug of red wine vinegar and a little vegetable stock. I also added a dried lime as an experiments, but to be honest you could do without. You could add raisins or another dried fruit soaked in brandy to further develop this contorno. Set your cabbage on a low heat and cover tightly, stirring occassionally until soft all the way through.

Meanwhile, boil your vegetables. I used a sweet potato, normal potato and some carrots because I had things to use up. Drain them and place them in the roasting tin with the lamb, adding any extra fat you might need to coat them.

When you drain your vegetables, keep the water for gravy. Add some quality powdered stock to the vegetable water and immerse your herb stalks in the stock to infuse.

A joint this size will need at least two and a half hours in the oven to cook through properly. When it's ready, rest and then carve, taking care not to let the stuffing fall out of the slices, as I have done.

Drain all the fat from the roasting tin and add your stock, stalks and a crushed clove of garlic, placing the roasting tin on a medium heat. This cut won't give you much juice at the bottom of the tin, but scrape off what is there and bring it to a boil, adding flour slowly to thicken. Strain the gracy through a sieve or similar and keep it warm.

Pour your gravy generously over your meat and vegetables and serve with Nurofen.

Benedicamus Domino.


  1. Nurofen and not Gaviscon? ;-)

    Seriously, it sounds very nice - how did it taste and did you mange to eat it before midnight?


  2. Only just, I ate it at 9pm and the lamb was pretty much cooked. It was VERY fatty though, I think I'm going to reuse the left over lamb in a bean stew tonight.

  3. Congratulations. This is as good- if not better- than the great Fr Z who has admired your sacristy at S. Magnus I know. Guess he would admire your kitchen too!