FAST COOKING CUTS
Mid-loin chops: These tender little chops have a tasty layer of firm fat and are perfect for light grilling.
Rack: a rack of lamb consists of three, six or eight rib eye cutlets ‘Frenched’, meaning the cutlet bones are trimmed of all fat, sinew and meat but kept together. Quick-roasted or grilled as a whole piece, they can be carved and plated as individual cutlets or carved in sets of two or three per serve.
Strip/short loin: from the top of the back, trimmed of all its fat like a small fillet. Lean and tender, it is ideal for flash frying or quick roasting. Season with spice rubs and slice for warm salads, or make kebabs for grilling.
Fillet: sits between the strip loin and mid-loin chops. This is the leanest, most delicate cut and requires little cooking. Seal and flash roast and slice pink, or mince for lamb kibbeh. Trimmed of fat and sliced into round baby steaks the fillet becomes tender, sweet noisettes.
Rib eye: the rib eye muscle from the back or best end of the neck. Roast whole or cut to steaks.
Thick flank/chump/rump: a small round nugget roast from the top of the leg weighing around 250 grams and enough for two. It can be a little chewier because of the grain of the muscle but has good robust flavour. Brown the outside in the pan, roast off in the oven briefly, then rest for 10 minutes. Delicious marinated with garlic, thyme and lemon juice or rubbed with Moroccan spices.
Kidneys: buy whole for freshness and remove the outer membrane, or ask your butcher to do this for you. They are tastiest braised, grilled or sautéed whole, or cut across their width into thick slices and sautéed until just pink. Or try classic creamy devilled kidneys, steak and kidney pie or kidney stroganoff.
Brains: delicate, sweet and delicious with a rich, creamy texture. Soak in cold water for 3-4 hours to clean. They make tasty fritters for pan frying or crumbed whole to deep fry. Try poaching them for five minutes in a bouillon (broth), drain and douse in flour, and pan fry in butter till crisp, with capers and sage leaves; or leave to cool in the bouillon, slice like carpaccio and serve with a robust vinaigrette, baby spinach or corn salad.
Liver: the secret is to buy it very fresh and slice it thinly, about 1 cm thick. Flash fry whole or grill until just pink. Serve with a garlicky mash and caramelised onions, or sauté in strips and serve with a creamy sauce folded through tagliatelle.
SLOW COOKING CUTS
Shoulder: a superb source of tender, succulent meat, especially good when boned and rolled. Stuff with chunky homemade tapenade or marinated artichokes, anchovies and garlic. Roast more slowly than you would a leg, for just a little pinkness in the centre. Carves beautifully without the bone.
Breast/flap: also includes part of the belly, it’s fatty but versatile and economical. Roast slowly with pulses, or if boned, roll around a dried stuffing of couscous or millet and herbs to absorb the cooking juices and fat. Pot-roast or pre-poach first to remove some of the fat before roasting on a high heat for a crispy finish. See recipe for ‘Roast Breast of Lamb on Spanish Beans’pg 69.
Neck chops: wonderful for long, slow cooking – the bone adding extra flavour.
Shank: a rich, gelatinous cut, the shank just below the shin transforms with long, slow braising in stock or wine with vegetables and aromatics, either on the stovetop or in the oven. Add citrus zest and anchovies for extra zing.
Leg: the classic lamb roast. A whole leg roast consists of the sirloin with hipbone or thick flank and the shank. When ‘Frenched’ the sirloin section is removed and the shank bone is neatly trimmed and exposed. Boned and butterflied, it’s a good cut for cooking on a covered barbecue or pot-roasting. Oil and salt the skin before cooking and sit it on a layer of thickly sliced potatoes, garlic and herbs. Serve pink.
Spare ribs: Ideal for slow roasting or grilling. Marinate (try Moroccan spices, or garlic, rosemary and honey) before slow roasting until crispy and caramelised.
Topside: a chunky, lean mini roast for four from the top or back of the leg roast. Roast on the bone or remove the bone and stuff. With the bone in and sliced, you’ll get tasty leg steaks for grilling, chargrilling or pan frying.