When my best friend just recently bought her first house, we were looking through the garden to see what was already growing there. After weeding the place so we could actually see what was there, we discovered a little herb garden, which was mostly comprised of mint and rosemary.
That was sorted then; we’d be roasting lamb.
I decided on a rolled roast lamb; based on a recipe I found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday. I was trying to tell my mum, who was grocery shopping with me, the cut of meat I was after – lamb breast.
Mum had no idea what I was talking about. After a few minutes of hand actions (“It’s long, and flat, and you lay stuffing on it, and then you roll it all up?”), Mum had the answer. While the Brits call it the sensible “lamb breast”, us Aussies call it the much more appealing “lamb flap”.
Please don’t let the name put you off trying this dish. And please don’t let the cut of meat put you off either. It is long and flat, and has quite a lot of fat on it, which did almost put me off, but I’m glad I stuck it through.
Because this cut of lamb is unpopular, I did have to go to my local butcher instead of finding it in the supermarket. And I did have to have it ordered in specially. But it was seriously no issue. My butcher was really excited to see a young person experimenting with a different cut of meat and we stood and swapped recipes for a few minutes.
“Do you want the skin and bones cut off before you pick it up?” the butcher asked.
“Yes, please,” I started to reply, before my mother interrupted.
“Shouldn’t you be doing that yourself?” she asked me.
“My new BFF Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said my friendly butcher would do it for me!”
“Who said I’d be friendly!?” the butcher laughed (but he was totally friendly. Yours will be too).
Oh, hey, I forgot to mention the best bit about this cut of lamb, and why you might decide to choose it over a nicer cut. Two lamb flaps came to a whopping total of $6. Yeah. Six dollars. Which comes in handy if you’ve just bought your first house.
I made a stuffing for the lamb and then rolled it, and then cooked it on a low heat for a few hours. This let a whole lot of the fat drip away, and all of the good flavours from the stuffing sink into the lamb.
I served it with a whole lotta roast veggies (potatoes, garlic, beetroot (not burnt potatoes), carrots, and parsnip, and green peas. Not to mention lashings of gravy and homemade mint sauce.
Roast lamb is perfect for this time of year when the weather hasn’t quite sorted out what it’s doing. If it’s a fine day, you’re eating spring lamb to celebrate the sunny days! If it’s turned out rainy and chilly, what better way is there than to warm up and make the kitchen smell super tasty? Let’s not put this off any longer.
Rolled Roast Lamb
2 lamb flaps, with as much skin and fat removed as possible
A knob of butter
2 small onions (or one large one), diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 slices of bread
The zest of one lemon
Several sprigs of rosemary
1 egg, lightly beaten
To start, melt the butter in a small pan, and add the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Let it cook until the onion and garlic smell a-maze-ing, but take it off the heat before they turn brown.
Whizz the slices of bread up in a food processor until you have fresh breadcrumbs, and move them over to a medium sized bowl.
Mix up the onion and garlic mix with the breadcrumbs, and add the lemon zest and the rosemary, stripped from the sprigs (I think I used about five sprigs? You can use as much as you like!). Mix in the beaten egg until everything is combined.
Lay the two lamb flaps flat on a chopping board and divide the stuffing between the two. Roll each piece up, one at a time, and tie up with kitchen-safe string (please no Bridget Jones moments, and no turning your lamb blue). Your butcher might even give you some food- and oven-safe rubber bands, if you ask nicely.
Bung the rolls in an oven pan, and pop them into the oven that’s been preheated to 200°C. Keep them there for half an hour, and then take the heat down to 150°C.
Keep that lamb cooking for another hour and a half, at least, or until you’re ready to serve.
Use the pan juices to make gravy, because it will be delicious – and let’s be honest, you can’t have roast without gravy – but make sure to drain off as much fat as possible before doing so.
Roast Veggies to Match
New potatoes (the cute, little ones)
One head of garlic
Boil up your potatoes for about six minutes or so, or until they’re just tender. Drain them and let them air-dry for a minute or two, and then pop them in a baking pan with whole cloves of garlic with the skin still on, rosemary and slices of lemon. Drizzle some olive oil in the pan, making sure each potato is covered entirely. Sprinkle the whole lot with salt.
Peel and chop the carrots, parsnip and beetroot, and pop them in another pan, and drizzle and coat with olive oil.
Both these pans should go into the oven for about an hour or so, or until they look tasty. Take them out of the oven for a while, if the meat still needs more time, and put them back in for twenty or so minutes before serving.
Homemade Mint Sauce
I have a mint plant that sits on my kitchen windowsill and I water it with a teapot. It grows and grows and grows and I freeze a lot of the leaves so they don’t go to waste. You can use fresh or frozen mint leaves here, or, like I did, a mixture of the two. This recipe is nowhere near exact, because it all comes down to taste. Make sure to test it, and tweak it to your particular choice.
A handful of mint leaves
A splash of white vinegar
A few splashes of boiling water
A teaspoon or so of sugar
Tear up the mint leaves into a small jug, but don’t worry so much about being precise. Add the vinegar, water and sugar, and stir. Taste it now, but try not to make drastic changes at this point, before the flavours have infused.
Let the mixture sit for about ten minutes, and then taste it again, and add sugar, vinegar or more hot water to your liking.