This dish is recognised as an absolute culinary classic. It’s an Elizabeth David belter of a recipe that somehow, had completely passed me by. Yes, I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of it until just the other week. My introduction was a starter at my favourite new restaurant; Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms in Bristol and it blew me away.
It’s lamb breast in breadcrumbs and ‘holy-tasty-fried-meat’ it’s good. Good in a kind of similar way to the resulting carnage if Colonel Sanders had the afternoon off from chicken and was let loose with a cleaver and a deep fat fryer in a field full of sheep. Yeah that’s what I call finger licking good. Combine it with a sharp creamy tartare sauce? Frigging ding-dong.
Since that awakening moment, I’ve been thinking of nothing else but having a go at recreating it at home. First I studied the original Elizabeth David recipe (reproduced in Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken & Other Stories), next I asked Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel from Bell’s how he made his version.
As you might imagine, the demands of a professional kitchen mean that Sam’s preparation and cooking methods are a bit different from Lizzy David’s home cooked version. The original recipe calls for the lamb to be slowly braised in white wine and water, breadcrumbed and finished in the oven. The restaurant version has the lamb breast salted, then cooked confit in duck fat (which makes sense for avoiding waste, confit meat keeps for ages) It’s then quickly deep fried to finish.
Being an awkward twat, I decided to pinch a bit of both methods. Mainly because I was too tight to buy duck fat for the confit and also because I’m lazy and I like the idea of finishing the dish in two minutes, especially after it has taken hours to prepare.
I should point out that lamb breast is one of those dirt-cheap, tough as old boots, cuts that when cooked for hours, tastes incredible.
So, here we have my bastardised recipe. It’s pretty rich, I don’t think you could eat loads, at least I couldn’t and I’m essentially a mouth connected to a bottomless pit, so I reckon this will easily feed 4. I served it with sauce Gribiche but at Bell’s, Sam served it with Tartare sauce and I reckon that’s definitely the better option. With regards to Tartare sauce, you can slavishly follow a recipe or do what I generally do, sling a few tablespoons of mayonnaise in a bowl and throw in a heaped tablespoon each of chopped capers, gherkins, parsley, and maybe a bit of tarragon and a tiny bit of Dijon. If you don’t have all of that, don’t worry, even if all you can rummage together is just mayo with some chopped gherkins through, it won’t be far wrong.
Lamb Ste Menehould
1 Breast of Lamb (bones left in)
2 Carrots, sliced
2 Onions, sliced
A few sprigs of thyme
1 Glass White Wine
1 Glass of Water
Salt & Pepper
You’ll also need:-
1 Egg, beaten
Flour for dusting
Breadcrumbs (preferably Panko, excellent Japanese breadcrumbs, widely available)
A deep fat fryer
Preheat the oven to 140C
Simply sling the lamb and the other bits and bobs into a pan, cover it with foil and whack in the oven for 3 hours. Turning the meat over every hour or so.
By this time, after you’ve let it cool down a bit, it should be so tender you can pull the bones right out.
You’ll need to sandwich your cold lamb breast between something flat, a couple of chopping boards or baking trays would be ideal. Place it in the fridge and weigh the top down with whatever’s handy. Ideally you’d want to leave it like this overnight, but a good few hours will probably do it.
When ready to serve, cut your lamb into oblong pieces, roughly a fingers length and say a couple of centimetres wide.
Dust in the flour, dip in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs.
Deep fry at around 190C for 2 minutes.
Season with salt.
Eat crisp and hot, dipped in tartare sauce.
Elizabeth David also recommends serving with some mashed potato, which sounds like a frigging capital idea. I love it – my recipe for uber mash is here
Thanks for Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel at Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms for allowing me to reproduce his method here.