Slow cooked cuts for the summer menu – Lamb Belly Roulade
A couple of conversations I’ve had recently with chefs about slow cuts being a winter inspired dish, led me to going away and concluding after some thought… Hell No! This doesn’t have to be the case.
The normal process of cooking tough cuts of meat requires the method of slow cooking and generally with a liquid such as stock or wine or both. Some examples are braising, pot roasts (Poêler) and stews (Ragoût) where the meat is either partially or fully submerged in a flavoured liquid with aromats.
This is because the more use the muscle has then generally the more connective tissue will be present and this has a significant influence on the tenderness of the cut from that muscle block. The slow cooking method aids the break-down of the connective tissue (aka collagen) in tough cuts of meat where ‘the tough bits’ softened and dissolve into gelatine over prolonged low temperature cooking. In turn, this gives the stock or liquid that silky consistency that enriches the sauce, and if it is reduces, will then form a sticky glaze which you can observe on your fingers and chin the next time you eat spare ribs. (There is a caveat on this principle. As well as collagen we have another component in the make-up of meat called elastin. This unfortunately requires physical removal by trimming with a knife as no amount of cooking will ever break it down).
Given the above, the normal preference for summer lamb is to use the prime cuts such as fillet, rack, rumps and loin. The advantages of using prime cuts are… minimal prep required, they cook quickly and have a subtle or delicate flavour, but the downside is that these cuts normally come at a premium price.
As true as conventional wisdom may be, it doesn’t mean tough cuts have to be a winter dish only. Let me talk you through another option using cheaper cuts and achieving the same tenderness as premium cuts but with some added advantages.
First, and obviously, it’s the cost savings, especially if you are tied into a budget and/or catering for a large number of guests. But more so, what I like about these cuts is that they have a slightly more robust flavour and texture and therefore are more appropriate for more pronounced seasonings and flavour profiles that is lost on more the premium cuts.
Following is a recipe using the Provenance lamb belly and hind shank but you could easily replace the hind shank with the neck fillet.
The belly is used to wrap around the boned-out meat of the shank and tied to form a small roulade of about 850g in weight which is a good serving for 4 guests. here’s how to do it…
First, bone out the lamb shank – see photo below.
Second, lay out the Belly as shown.
Now place the lamb shank meat in the position…
and season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs of your choice (oregano or marjoram are always good).
Roll up as shown…
tying up in sections with butcher’s string the full length as shown below.
Pot roast with a mirepoix and aromats in a slow 120 degree oven for 5 hours removing of the lid of the pan for the last ½ hour and rolling in the pan juices to baste and caramelise.
Alternatively, roll up in cling film (see below), tie the ends and vac pac or place in a zip lock bag and sous vide 72 °C for 24 hours. Finish off in a hot pan and high temp oven for 15 minutes to caramelise.
Either way, allow the whole roll to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Make sure you de-glaze the pan with some chicken stock and use this as your juice/ sauce as required.
Once cooled, slice the roll into thick, tender portions.
Serve with chargrilled asparagus, steamed baby potatoes, roasted onions and torn rocket and fresh mint leaves. Dress with some good E.V avocado oil and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and serve. Oh and don’t forget to drizzle some of those wonderfully reduced pan juices you’ve collected from the pan – but not too much though, let the sweet clean flavour of the meat be the hero.