Meat

Meat

By
Leiths School of Food and Wine
Contains
65 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849493192
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

The choice of meat available to the home cook today, including rare breeds, which are being reintroduced, is vast, so it really helps to know about the different cuts and the best ways to cook them. Simple butchery skills are also useful. The tenderness and flavour of meat are influenced by various things, including the breed, the age of the animal, the amount it has exercised, the state of the animal prior to slaughter and how long the carcass has hung for – factors that are all beyond the cook’s control. However, it is important to know what to look for when you are buying meat, and how to decide which cut to buy for a particular dish.

Beef and veal

From the robust flavour of aged beef to the subtle nature of tender veal, there are endless opportunities for creative cooking with both meats. Once the technique has been mastered, a perfectly cooked steak offers the ultimate in fast, convenient cooking. Served with a simple salad and perhaps some fried potatoes, it is the ideal, elegant quick meal. At the other end of the spectrum, the tougher cuts, with their gelatinous nature, offer the cook the opportunity to develop slow, intense flavour combinations, from spicy curries to classic red wine and herb-infused braises and casseroles.

Well hung beef will have the best developed flavour, and some fat is desirable in a joint or minced beef. Any marbling of fat running through the fibres and muscles will melt during the cooking process and help to keep the meat tender and succulent.

Veal is the meat of young cows. Rose veal, while not as tender as milk-fed calves who have restricted movement, is guaranteed to be from calves raised on farms in association with the RSPCA’s Freedom Food programme. It will still have a subtler, sweeter flavour and lighter colour than beef.

Roasting

Roasting involves cooking meat at a high temperature for a fairly short amount of time. Meat is normally dry roasted, without the addition of any liquid to the roasting tin. This way of roasting works well and produces a good gravy, although there can be a lot of moisture loss and shrinkage when cooking at such high temperatures. To reduce this effect, we often prefer to brown the joint quickly at a high temperature for colour and flavour (this can be done either in the oven or over direct heat), then roast the meat at a much lower temperature for longer, resulting in more tender, succulent meat. This method therefore employs both roasting and slow cooking techniques.

When choosing a piece of beef for roasting, look for a cut from the centre area of the animal, near the back bone, as this is the least exercised part of an animal and so is naturally more tender. Such cuts include fore and wing rib, sirloin and fillet. Avoid using topside and silverside as these cuts are very lean and much tougher, and are best suited to pot roasting or braising.

Beef should be deep red in colour with some marbling of fat through the fibres and muscles. If there is surface fat it should be creamy in colour and dry. Good beef is hung to intensify the flavour and tenderise it; the longer the meat has been hanging, the darker red it will be.

The shape of the joint

Most cooking times are for a piece of meat that is uniform (almost square) and compact. Long, narrow pieces of meat, such as a fillet, do not need as long a cooking time when calculated by weight, as the heat will take less time to penetrate to the centre of the joint. When cooking such pieces, you may need to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes per 450 g or by 15–20 minutes overall.

The temperature of the meat

Remove the meat from the fridge at least 1–2 hours in advance of roasting, depending on size, to let it come to room temperature. This will result in a more even cooking.

Cooking on the bone

Bone is a very good conductor of heat, and so meat on the bone cooks a little more quickly than boneless joints. This means you need to check it a little earlier than the suggested time.

Small roasts

A very small joint will overcook and toughen while it roasts at a high temperature to brown it, so it is often best to brown smaller joints on the hob and then roast them in the oven at the lower temperature for the calculated cooking time. To do this, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan over a medium to high heat. Season the joint with salt and brown evenly all over in the pan before seasoning with pepper and transferring it to a roasting tin in the oven. Deglaze the frying pan with a little water after the browning process and reserve these juices for the gravy; it all adds flavour.

Carving a roast rib of beef

This method of carving a rib of beef can be used for all types of roast on the rib/ bone, such as a roast pork loin. This is the technique for a chined joint with the chine (back) bone already removed.

1. Once the meat is cooked and rested, stand the joint so the ribs are pointing upwards; if it doesn’t balance well like this then lie the meat so the ribs are uppermost.

2. Position a sharp carving knife or large knife between the ribs and the meat.

3. Keeping the knife pushing against the ribs, gradually release the meat from the ribs.

4. Continue until the ribs are released. The ribs can be divided into individual ribs and added to the gravy while you carve the meat, to lend extra flavour.

5. Identify which way the grain, or fibres, of the meat lie and slice the meat very thinly across the grain.

6. Continue to carve the meat into slices of even thickness.

Carving a joint that has not been chined

Sometimes a roast comes with the chine (back) bone attached, as well as the ribs. If the back bone is still on, it should have at least been cut through close to the ribs (ie chined) to be able to remove it separately from the ribs. Once the ribs have been removed, stand the meat so the chine is to your left, then remove the chine by keeping the knife firmly against the bone and cutting the meat off the chine bone.

If the meat has not been chined, so the chine is still attached to the ribs, then once the ribs are released you will need to angle the knife to continue cutting the meat from the chine bone. In this case the ribs cannot be divided individually; discard or use for stock.

Single-bone rib roast or steak

The carving technique assumes more than one rib. Where the joint is smaller and only one rib is attached, then the removal of the rib is much more straightforward. The meat can be carved with rather than against the grain, as the largest flatter side can be against the board, for example for a bone-in rib eye.

Sirloin or fillet

Sirloin or fillet roasts are not on the bone, so to carve either, simply identify the grain of the meat and slice across the grain into thin slices. For a sirloin roast, have the surface fat uppermost.

Stewing and braising meat

Gently cooking cuts of meat that are suitable for stewing and braising over a long period of time, either fully or partly submerged in liquid, produces tender, flavourful results. Browning the meat first to caramelise the surface sugars adds an element of richness and colour.

The most suitable cuts of meat for these slow, moist treatments are those that have been heavily exercised, such as chuck, flank, cheek and shin; ie tougher cuts with a good development of connective tissue in the meat. This breaks down during the long, slow cooking process to provide added succulence. Look for a good marbling of fat running between the fibres and muscles, as this will add moisture and flavour.

Surface fat can generally be removed, but keeping a little does provide extra flavour. The silvery, shiny sinew on the surface needs to be removed, as this will not break down during cooking and will stay tough.

Preparing meat for stewing

1. Place the meat on a board and, using a sharp knife, trim away most of the surface fat. Trim away the larger pieces of sinew too, but avoid cutting the meat into small pieces to extract the sinew between the fibres and muscles, as this risks the meat falling apart.

2. Cut the meat across the grain (ie across the fibres) into thickish steaks, about 2–3 cm, so when the meat is eaten the short fibres will give the perception of tenderness.

3. Then cut the steaks into large chunks, about 2–3 cm square (without aiming for perfect squares; they should look natural).

Browning meat

Browning meat quickly over a high heat before long, slow cooking is in most cases recommended. The caramelisation of the surface sugars adds colour and flavour to the meat, some of which also transfers to the liquid, giving richer results. The meat is browned only briefly, and left raw in the middle to cook slowly at a gentle temperature.

Brown the meat in small batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan and cause the temperature to drop, which will impede the browning.

1. Heat a heavy-based pan over a medium to high heat. It shouldn’t be smoking. Season the meat lightly with salt to aid the browning process, but only just before browning or it will draw moisture out of the meat.

2. Add a little oil to the pan, only thinly coating the bottom of the pan, then add the first batch of meat. The meat should sizzle vigorously as it comes into contact with the pan. If it doesn’t, the oil is not hot enough.

3. Allow the meat to brown before moving it. Once browned underneath, it will release easily and can be turned to brown the next side.

4. Brown the meat evenly on all sides, but take care not to cook it any longer than necessary to colour, or it will toughen.

5. Remove the meat from the pan and repeat the process until all the meat has been browned. Deglazing can be done in between the batches.

6. Pour off any excess oil from the pan, then deglaze by adding a little water and allowing it to come to the boil, stirring to lift any sediment from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. This liquid, called the déglaçage, can be added to the dish for additional flavour. However, if it tastes burnt, you should discard it.

Browning mince

When browning mince, much the same technique applies as for pieces of meat, but without adding any salt. Once you have added the mince to the frying pan it will need to be broken down into very small pieces, using either the back of a fork or a wooden spoon. It will not turn as dark as larger pieces of meat, and would turn overly hard if it did. Again, unless you are only browning a small amount, you will need to work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.

Stewing

Generally this involves small pieces of meat, which are covered in liquid and cooked gently for a long period of time. Browning both the meat and any vegetables before cooking adds richness, colour and flavour to the sauce and the resultant dishes are called brown stews. White stews, conversely, have no initial browning. In both cases, the meat is served in the liquid it is cooked in, thickened to a syrupy consistency.

Braising

In its truest form, braising is cooking food on a bed of vegetables, often referred to as a mirepoix, in a very small amount of liquid, generally stock, so the liquid comes only about one-third of the way up the food. The pan is covered with a tight-fitting lid, so introducing an element of steaming. As for stewing, browning the meat before braising provides colour and additional flavour, while the long period of cooking time over a low to moderate heat that follows produces tender, flavourful results. The bed of vegetables is usually strained from the sauce and the sauce reduced before serving.

A note on larding and barding...

Some cuts of meat, poultry and game can be very lean, with minimal marbling of fat running through the muscle structure. To help keep the meat succulent when cooking, you can apply a technique called larding to lean meat cuts, and barding to poultry and game birds.

For larding, pork fat is generally used, cut into a thin strip and threaded through the meat using a larding needle. Several strips larded through the joint will melt as the meat cooks, with the melted fat working its way through the fibres and adding succulence.

For barding, rashers of bacon or pancetta, or strips of fat, are used. These are laid over the breast of game and poultry birds before they are cooked to help retain moisture in the lean meat. On small birds, the rashers are usually tied in place with kitchen string.

Pan-frying

Pan-frying is the quickest method of cooking small, very tender cuts of meat such as steaks. Browning the meat on both sides requires a very high heat, which then needs to be slightly lowered to cook the meat to the point desired. Provided it is good quality produce, it is quite safe to eat beef raw, blue, rare, medium-rare and medium, so the end result is a matter of personal preference.

The cuts most suited to this rapid method of cooking are those that are less exercised, and are therefore the most naturally tender. As with roasts, these are found in the area between the shoulder and back legs near the back bone, and include fillet, sirloin, rump and rib eye.

Thicker cut steaks, with a deep red colour and marbling of fat through the fibres and muscles, are ideal, as it is easier to cook them to your preferred point without overcooking. Fillet steaks, for example, can be up to 6 cm thick. If tenderness is a priority, then fillet is the cut of choice, followed by sirloin and rump. If flavour is more important, choose rump, then sirloin and fillet. Sirloin, strip loin or rib eye offer a good combination of both tenderness and flavour. T-bones are on the bone, with the sirloin on one side and fillet on the other and porterhouse is a double-sized T-bone.

It is best to treat a very thick cut steak, such as a fillet, chateaubriand (thick end of the fillet to serve two), côte de boeuf, or rib eye on the bone, almost like a roast. Brown it over direct heat all over, then finish cooking it in the oven.

Tougher cuts of meat, such as hanger steaks, can be cooked very quickly to retain their tenderness, but must be cooked rare to medium-rare. The more they are cooked the tougher they become. Small, tender cuts of meat are also useful for stir-fries and salads.

A guide to steak cooking times

The times given are guidelines only, as the length of cooking time varies according to how many steaks are being cooked, the type of steak, the degree of heat and the weight of the frying pan. For a blue or rare steak, keep the heat reasonably fierce for the whole cooking time. For medium-rare or medium steaks, lower the temperature to medium after the initial browning.

Sirloin

–Blue: 1–1½ minutes per side

–Rare: 1½–2 minutes per side

–Medium-rare: 2–3 minutes per side

–Medium: 3–4 minutes per side

Fillet

–Blue: 1½–2 minutes per side

–Rare: 2½–3½ minutes per side

–Medium-rare: 3½–4½ minutes per side

–Medium: 4½–5½ minutes per side

Degrees of cooking

All cooked steaks should be well browned on the surface, but the varying degrees of ‘doneness’ are defined as follows.

–Blue: The inside is raw, but warm. The fibres of the meat are not set.

–Rare: The fibres of the meat are not set through the central 75% of the steak.

–Medium-rare: As for rare but a slightly paler colour and only 50% of the fibres are not set through the centre of the steak.

–Medium: Pink in the centre with juices and fibres set.

–Well done: The centre is beige but the flesh is still juicy.

A note on cooking the fat layer...

Steaks such as rump and sirloin have a fat layer around one side which adds flavour and moisture, although it can be trimmed away before cooking if preferred. If it is left on, hold the steak fat side down in the hot pan with tongs, to render and brown the fat before cooking the steak.

Pan-frying

This very quick cooking method is suitable for small, not too thick, tender pieces of meat and uses fat, some of which is served with the meat. Choose a fat that is either flavourless, so it does not detract from the flavour of the meat, or that has a flavour that complements the meat. Because the fat needs to reach a high temperature, oils or clarified butter are most suitable; ordinary butter would burn. It is also important to choose the right pan. A wide, shallow, uncovered pan is preferable as it prevents any steam from being trapped, which would steam rather than fry the meat. The fat should be heated properly before you add the meat or it won’t brown, and you need to fry in small batches so as not to lower the heat of the pan and prevent browning. Fry quickly to achieve colour, after which you may need to reduce the heat to allow the meat to cook through. Always serve fried food as soon as possible after resting for best results.

Veal and beef offal

Offal has been enjoying something of a revival in the past few years, as people have started to appreciate the flavour and diversity of these once thrift-associated cuts. The new surge of interest in these non-muscular parts of the animal shows that it is not just the prized tender cuts of beef that have something to offer. The cuts we tend to use most are calf’s liver, veal sweetbreads, ox kidney and the milder veal (or calf’s) kidneys.

All offal must be very fresh when you buy it and used within a day or two of purchase as it is more perishable than other meats.

Preparing calf’s liver

Calf’s liver needs careful preparation and cooking as it can spoil easily. It requires quick cooking and is best eaten pink. You generally buy calf’s liver as a slice. Look for firm slices with a moist, shiny appearance, avoiding those with too many tubes, which make preparation harder. Ideally keep the slice whole for cooking, but if it is too large to cook in one piece, cut it into no more than 2 or 3 pieces.

1. Look for a milky white, very fine film on the non-cut edges of the liver; this needs to be removed as it shrinks on cooking. Use your fingernail to release this film from the edge of the liver (it can be difficult to separate, but is well worth the effort). Once released, carefully pull it away and discard.

2. The larger, grey, sinewy tubes also need to be removed. Take care when removing the sinew as what looks like a small area on one side of the liver expands and extends further on the other side. Use the point of a small knife or scissors to get between the sinew and liver and release the sinew, then remove and discard it.

3. Continue in this way with the remaining sinew. If there is too much sinew on the liver to remove without risk of the liver falling apart, cut through the sinew at intervals to prevent if from shrinking too much during cooking. The liver is now ready to cook.

Preparing ox kidney

Kidneys are nutritious and simple to cook, once you become confident with their preparation. Ox kidney has a strong flavour and is traditionally included in steak and kidney pudding and steak pie, but it can also be sliced and fried, with onions for example. Veal and lamb’s kidneys are smaller, milder in flavour and most often cooked quickly and served with a simple pan sauce.

1. Ox kidneys are lobulated, meaning that they have the appearance of bunches of large grapes. Holding the lobes together is a system of tubes and fat, which are not suitable to eat.

2. The easiest way to prepare ox kidneys is to trim away individual lobes or groups of lobes from the central core.

3. Check the cut end of the lobes for any pieces of core, tubes or fat that still need removing; use a knife or scissors to cut these away.

Preparing veal sweetbreads

Sweetbreads are the thymus (throat, gut or neck) or pancreatic (stomach or heart) glands, usually of a calf or lamb. Creamy white in colour, they have a soft texture that firms slightly on cooking, and a delicate flavour. Their outer membrane needs to be removed and this is easily done by poaching the sweetbreads briefly, which firms the membrane. The most commonly used sweetbreads are from the pancreas. First, sweetbreads are soaked in water in the fridge overnight to remove any blood.

1. Drain the sweetbreads after soaking and place in a saucepan of clean cold water. Bring gently to a simmer and poach, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water. As soon as they are cool, remove and pat dry with kitchen paper.

2. Pull away the membrane and sinew, trying to keep the sweetbreads as whole as possible.

3. The sweetbreads can be weighted to firm them for a few hours or overnight before portioning as appropriate before cooking. Put a tray over them, with a board on top of the tray, and refrigerate to firm them up.

Lamb

This is a naturally tender meat, so many cuts of lamb can take both slow and quick cooking. It has a distinctive, almost sweet flavour and is often paired with bold flavours like rosemary, garlic and anchovy. When choosing lamb, look for a deep pink colour and dry, white fat.

Roasting

As lamb is a young animal the muscles have not been overworked so almost any cut can be roasted. The most common cuts for roasting are the leg, shoulder, best end of neck and, considered to be the best and most expensive, saddle of lamb.

Roast lamb is most often served pink or medium, at its most succulent. However, very slow roasting gives intensely flavoured, very tender results.

Boning legs and shoulders of lamb

Boning meat is easier than most people imagine. A knowledge of where the bones lie within a joint of meat makes it easier to understand how to go about it. A short, sharp knife with a rigid blade is ideal, the sharper the better.

Open or butterfly boning involves cutting along the bone and opening the joint out to be cooked open or butterflied, or stuffed, rolled, tied and cooked. Tunnel boning is a more difficult technique that involves removing the bones to leave the joint intact, thereby creating a cavity, which can then be stuffed. Your butcher should be happy to tunnel bone a leg or shoulder of lamb for you, or butterfly a joint if you would prefer it done for you.

Ideally the joint should be removed from the fridge well in advance of boning to allow it to come up to room temperature. Work slowly and carefully, holding the knife in a dagger-like hold with the point of the knife always pointing downwards to prevent you from pulling the knife directly towards your body. Always keep the blade of the knife against bone and scrape, rather than cut the meat away.

With tunnel boning it is best to work from both ends, starting from the body end and working the bone free for a short while, before starting from the hoof end. By alternating ends you are not trying to tunnel bone the full length of the joint, which is difficult and can be less safe.

Open boning or butterflying a leg of lamb

The even thickness of butterflied boned lamb makes it ideal for the barbecue.

1. Cut through the flesh closest to the bone, along the length of the bone.

2. Carefully scrape the meat away from the bone, working out the bone along its full length. Remove the bone.

3. If you intend to cook the meat flat, open it out a little more to create a flat rectangle of even thickness. If you are going to stuff the opened out leg, you don’t need to do this. Trim away excess fat and tendons.

Cooking prime cuts from the leg, loin and best end

Small cuts from a leg of lamb, such as a leg steak or rump of lamb, should be cooked in much the same way as beef steaks. As an individual portion, the cut requires browning and quick cooking, either over a direct heat or in a hot oven.

Preparation of a rack of lamb (or best end of neck)

Rack of lamb is an expensive but elegant cut, ideal for entertaining. It can be sliced into cutlets for presentation or cut into 3-bone portions. This is the classic way of preparing a rack of lamb. A French-style rack is trimmed still further for a more attractive presentation.

1. Take the rack from the fridge and, while cold, remove the bark (paper-like skin covering the fat). It is easier to pull it away from the chine/backbone end towards the ribs. Lift the bark at one corner of the chine end with your fingertips or a small, sharp knife. Once you have enough to hold on to, slowly pull it back towards the ribs. If it is not pulling away easily, then use the knife to release a little of it first, then try pulling it away. You do not want to pull away the fat, just the skin.

2. If there is a thick layer of fat beneath the bark, carefully shave it off using a sharp knife, leaving no more than 1–2 mm fat covering the eye/loin of lamb. The rack doesn’t take long to cook and a thick layer of fat will not render, leaving underdone lamb fat. If there are alternate layers of fat and meat covering the eye, you will need to judge whether the layers of fat within the layers of meat will have time to render. If not, then remove the first layer of fat and meat, then shave the inner layer of fat to a 1–2 mm thickness. Do not remove all the fat to reveal the sinew covering the eye. Use any trimmings of meat for stocks and sauces. Feel for and remove any shoulder blade by cutting the half-moon shaped cartilage out.

3. Now trim and ‘battlement’ the ribs. To begin with, it is easier to do this with the chine bone still on. The length of the ribs should be about one and a half times the width of the eye, so measure the ribs from the eye end and trim the ribs if necessary with scissors or a cleaver (take care if using a cleaver). Now measure 2–3 cm from the non-eye end of the ribs, score through the fat across the rack at this point and cut it away.

4. With the rack standing on the chine, cut down on both sides of each rib, just to the scored line, then cut across to release the meat between the ribs. Remove and use for stocks and sauces.

5. Remove the chine bone by having the underside of the rack uppermost. Use a small knife to angle beneath the end of the ribs against the chine bone and, keeping the knife firmly against the chine bone, cut down carefully a little at a time to release the eye of meat and ribs from the chine. Avoid making a deep incision as if the knife is not angled correctly you will cut into the eye of the meat.

6. When the bottom of the chine is reached release it and set it aside to use for stocks and sauces.

7. Remove the gristle, which lies close to the eye just beneath the fat covering the eye at the chine end of the rack; it is a thick creamy elastic tendon that does not soften on cooking, so needs to be removed.

8. The last task is to clean the bones, made easier after removing the chine as the rack can be ‘bent’ and angled as required. Place the rack on the board, rib side down and, using a small knife positioned vertically on the first rib (not with the blade horizontally flat on the rib) and held firmly, scrape the thin film of sinew off the rib and away from you. You will need to bend the rack to reach the inside of the ribs and turn the rack over to scrape the underside of the ribs.

9. While the rack is turned over, also remove any excess fat from the outside of the rib area covering the eye. The ribs should be completely clean of sinew, or it discolours and burns in the heat of the oven. Tidy up the areas between the ribs and the rack is now ready to use.

To prepare a French trimmed rack of lamb

1. Follow steps 1 and 2 for preparing a rack of lamb (above), but remove all of the layers of fat and meat covering the eye of the meat and ribs, to reveal the sinew on the eye. Scrape the rib bones clean up to the eye. To prevent the eye falling away from the ribs, cut only up to the little triangular-shaped fat, which helps hold the eye to the ribs.

2. Follow steps 4–7 for preparing a rack of lamb (above) to clean the rib bones and remove the chine bone and gristle.

3. Trim away the layer of sinew covering the eye.

To cut a prepared rack of lamb into cutlets

Once you have prepared your rack, take a good look at it before you start to cut it into cutlets – the bones may be placed in such a way that cutting exactly between the bones might result in ‘losing’ a cutlet or having the first cutlet very thick and the last very thin. Your aim is to cut the rack into cutlets that are an even thickness to ensure they cook evenly. It might be necessary to cut against each bone, rather than right down the middle of two bones.

1. Prepare the rack following the instructions for preparing a rack of lamb (above).

2. Once the rack is prepared, cut between the bones into individual cutlets.

3. Take care to follow the natural curve of the bone and the knife will cut cleanly through the meat.

To remove the eye/loin of lamb from a rack of lamb

If you only want the eye, or loin, of lamb you do not need to prepare the whole rack. Take the unprepared rack of lamb and remove the chine bone, gristle and any shoulder blade. You can often buy just the eye/loin, in which case only the sinew needs removing.

1. After removing the chine, with the bones uppermost, carefully cut and release the bones from the eye/loin only to the edge of the eye.

2. The eye can now gently be pulled from the rack whole.

3. Clean the eye of the grey silvery sinew and fat. Try to leave the little false fillet in place.

Note: The bones can be stripped of fat and used, along with the chine, for lamb stock.

Preparing racks of lamb for noisettes

Noisettes are the boneless eye meat of a rack of lamb, wrapped in a thin layer of lamb fat and sliced into medallions. The meat can be cut into noisettes before or after cooking. You will need two 6-bone racks of lamb to serve 4.

First you need to remove the bark (paper-like skin covering the fat) and the chine bone and gristle as for preparing a rack of lamb.

1. Place the rack rib side uppermost on the board, with a sharp knife positioned between the ribs and the eye of the meat. Keeping the knife firmly against the ribs, cut between the ribs and eye to remove the rib bones. Reserve the ribs for stocks and sauces.

2. Carefully start to release the eye of the meat from the sheet of fat to which it is still attached. Once a corner of the fat is released you should be able to pull it away.

3. Trim off any excess fat and the silvery grey sinew covering the eye meat.

4. Try to leave the little false fillet on and avoid removing the sinew between it and the eye as this holds it in place. Set the cleaned meat aside and work on the rectangle of fat.

5. From what was the inside of the fat layer, which is what should be uppermost to you after removing the eye, carefully shave off all the meat and fat so all that is left is a 1–2 mm-thick rectangular sheet of lamb fat, which will wrap around the eye completely. You may need to cover the fat with a sheet of baking parchment or cling film and bash it out a little with a rolling pin or small saucepan to get it thin enough. Take care as too much force will break the fat.

6. Season the sheet of fat with salt and black pepper. At this stage, a stuffing could be spread on the fat before rolling the eye in it.

7. Place the cleaned, trimmed eye on the fat and roll it up in the fat fairly tightly, leaving a small overlap of fat of about 5–7 mm, to allow for shrinkage of the fat as it cooks. If the fat does not overlap, use some of the trimmings to place on the inside of the sheet of fat.

8. Tie the rolled lamb fairly tightly in the middle with kitchen string, then at each end to hold it in place.

9. Now tie the meat in between at 2–3 cm intervals to keep it intact. To create noisettes, slice the lamb evenly between the string so that each noisette is held together by a piece of string, to keep it intact while cooking. Alternatively, cook the lamb whole, then cut it into noisettes after browning.

Replacing the layer of fat with pancetta or bacon

The fat used to cover the eye can be replaced with pancetta or very thinly cut streaky bacon, in which case the preparation is much simpler. Remove the chine bone and then carefully pull out the eye (as in step 2 above). Trim and clean off any sinew.

Lay a sheet of cling film on a work surface and lay rashers of either pancetta or thin streaky bacon on the cling film, with all the rashers lying in the same direction and almost touching each other. Cover the rashers with another sheet of cling film and, using a rolling pin, roll on top of the cling film and bacon rasher sandwich. This will help to thin out the bacon and creates a sheet of bacon in which to roll up the lamb.

Remove the top layer of cling film and season the bacon with black pepper (the bacon will add sufficient salt). Place the eye of lamb on the bacon and roll up, using the cling film to support the bacon, taking care not to roll the film between the bacon and lamb. Again you need a small overlap of bacon to prevent shrinkage, and there only needs to be a single layer of bacon covering the lamb. Use the cling film to tightly wrap the eye and bacon to hold it together. Twist the ends to seal and refrigerate until needed.

Lamb offal

Kidneys, liver and sweetbreads are the most commonly used offal from lamb. Lamb’s liver is a good alternative to calf’s liver and often a little cheaper. It is considered to have slightly less flavour than calf’s liver, but can be easily substituted in calf’s liver recipes. The preparation is much the same as for calf’s liver and it requires a quick cooking so as to retain its tenderness, pinkness and juiciness.

Preparing lamb’s kidneys

1. Lamb’s kidneys are covered in a milky white film that needs to be removed before further preparation. It comes away easily and can be discarded. Cut the kidneys in half to expose the system of finger-like creamy white tubes.

2. Using a pair of scissors or a small knife, work under the main section towards the natural dip in the kidney shape, then work either the point of the scissors or knife under and down each little tube that works its way into the kidney, and snip at the bottom end.

3. After doing this to all the veins, the system can be removed and discarded as one piece. There is only one system of tubes, so depending on how you have halved the kidney the second half may be clear. Try to keep the kidneys as intact as possible, retaining their natural shape.

Pork

Because of its thick layer of fat, pork is often thought of as a rich meat, more suited to roasting, but it has an excellent affinity with many flavours, including fruit, spices and Asian aromatics. Some tender cuts can be used for both quick and slow cooking.

Roasting

The ideal cuts to use for roasting are from the loin, tenderloin, leg, shoulder and belly. Look for pink meat with a good layer of fat on the surface, and dry skin. Generally, the aim is to produce a crisp crackling and juicy, succulent meat, which is achieved by roasting at a high temperature to start with, to crisp the skin, and lowering the temperature for the rest of the cooking time to keep the meat moist.

Pork may now be served pink as the health risks that were once associated with undercooked pork no longer apply. As long as the meat reaches 63°C in the centre and is allowed to rest for 3 minutes, it is considered safe to eat, even if pink. However, we tend to roast pork until cooked through, but still succulent and juicy.

Pork tenderloin

Pork tenderloin, also known simply as pork fillet, is the cut from the eye of the loin. The meat is very lean and tender, and it cooks quickly. Because it readily takes on a variety of flavours, it is also very versatile. For even quicker cooking, it can also be sliced into escalopes.

Preparing pork tenderloin

1. Covering the pork tenderloin will be a thin membrane, a little fat and silvery sinew. The membrane pulls away easily, as does the small amount of fat. Use a knife if the fat is not coming away easily.

2. To remove the sinew, insert the point of a small knife midway along it and slide the knife along the tenderloin to the end to release a 4–5 mm-wide strip of sinew from the meat. Continue to do this until half the sinew has been released.

3. Turn the tenderloin around and repeat, holding on to the already released sinew. This should clean the tenderloin of sinew without damaging the meat. Tenderloins are long so it may be easier to cut them in half before marinating and cooking.

Gammon and ham

A ham is particularly versatile, being as delicious to eat cold as it is hot. Although the terms gammon and ham are used almost interchangeably, a butcher would understand a gammon to be pork leg meat that has been cured and is ready to be cooked. A ham is cured and already cooked.

Served cold, a joint of ham makes the ideal centrepiece for a buffet or informal gathering. Pairing it with interesting salads, such as broad bean, pea, feta and mint salad, sweet dill slaw or avocado fattoush with za’atar crisps turns a simple lunch into something quite special.

Furred game

Game meat often has a characteristically strong flavour. Coming as it does from animals surviving in the wild, it is lean by nature but can be cooked using similar methods to other types of meat, if care is taken so that it doesn’t dry out. As such, it is often marinated when slow cooked or, when cooked quickly, is usually served pink to avoid the meat becoming dry and tough. Many beef recipes can be easily adapted to use venison, and rabbit can be substituted for chicken in most instances.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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