Saddle of lamb
You will need to visit your butcher, as this cut of meat is not obtainable from supermarkets. Ask your butcher to trim the saddle so that it looks like a T-bone in cross section, with the fat still across the top and the chine bone trimmed off so that the base will sit as flat as possible in the pan. This should produce a symmetrical piece of meat, protected in fat on one side and bone on the other.
Serves four to six.
1 saddle of lamb
If you have the time, you can marinade the lamb for 24 hours in the following:
Several bunches rosemary and thyme
3 cloves garlic
Take a pan big enough to hold the saddle and pour in enough olive oil to ensure that there are no air gaps between the surface of the oil and the meat when the lamb is put in the pan. The oil conducts the heat from the pan more gently than air.
Put the pan on the lowest heat and cook the lamb, turning one-eighth of a turn every two to four minutes. This regulates the temperature and prevents the meat from getting too hot; if the oil in the pan sizzles, it is too hot.
Keep turning the meat as it gradually reaches an internal temperature of 56C, as measured on your meat probe. This will take up to one and a half hours. It seems like a lot of work, but if you're in the kitchen anyway, you might as well be doing something useful. When the meat has reached this temperature, it is ready to serve. The meat does not need resting.
Gigot de sept heures
Although this is called seven-hour leg of lamb, this is the shortest time you should cook it for.
Serves six to seven.
1 leg of lamb, around 3kg
30g Maldon sea salt
1 bunch thyme
Olive oil and pepper
1 ½ star anise
1 head garlic
1 bouquet garni consisting of a bay leaf, plus lots of thyme and rosemary
300ml white wine
100g cold unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional, but it really does make a difference)
You'll need an oven tray big enough to hold the lamb and vegetables. The dish should have a lid, but tightly sealed tinfoil will do.
Two days before cooking, rub the meat with half of the sea salt and half the thyme. On the day of cooking, wipe off any excess salt and brown the leg in olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan with a tight-fitting lid. Pepper the meat and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 65C. Peel and roughly chop the carrots and onions. Pour out excess fat from the pan and lightly brown the vegetables with the star anise, adding a little fresh olive oil if necessary. Place the meat on the vegetables and the head of garlic, cut across in half, either side. Add the bouquet garni and 300ml of water, and put the lid on. Place the pan in the oven.
Every half an hour, remove the tray from the oven and baste the meat with the juices, adding more water when necessary. Maintain the water level for the full seven hours. Half an hour before the meat is ready, add the remainder of the thyme. Meanwhile, put the white wine in a saucepan and as soon as it comes to the boil, burn off the acidity by holding a naked flame to the liquid; just watch your fingers! Reduce the wine until thick and syrupy, to about 50ml.
Remove the leg of lamb and set aside. Tip the contents of the pan into a fine-mesh sieve, placed over the saucepan containing the reduced wine, pressing on the vegetables with the back of a spoon to extract all of the juices. Discard the contents of the sieve. Bring this to the boil and reduce, skimming off any impurities that come to the surface. When the liquid has a sauce consistency, whisk in the cold butter. Sprinkle the parsley on the lamb and serve with the sauce on the side.
Braised shoulder of lamb
Another fantastically rustic dish that is, again, very simple to do.
1 shoulder of lamb, 1.5-2kg
Extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
2 medium-sized onions, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
1 bunch rosemary
1 bunch thyme
1 head garlic, cut in half
350ml white wine
Pre-heat the oven to 65C. Season the meat and liberally cover in olive oil. Place in the roasting tray with the chopped onions and herbs. Lightly brown on top of the stove. When they are almost ready, add the garlic (too much browning will make it bitter). Add extra olive oil if necessary.
Deglaze the tray by adding the white wine and scraping the pan with a wooden spoon if required. Bring to the boil; cover the roasting tray with tinfoil and place in the pre-heated oven. After about 45 minutes, remove the foil and, if necessary, add more water, so that you have about 1cm of liquid in the bottom of the tray.
Continue roasting for another five hours, again adding liquid if necessary and basting the meat occasionally. After this time, you will have the tenderest piece of meat imaginable. All you need to do now is to add 300ml of water to the roasting tray and gently reduce to a sauce consistency. When your reduction is just beginning to thicken, strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan and reduce until desired consistency. Carefully carve the meat into inch-thick slices and serve