After having the best porchetta of my life in Mogliano, a village in the Marche, central Italy, I became obsessed. Puffed, salty crackling encasing tender meat scented with rosemary, thyme and other lovely bits: I dreamed about it for months. My fixation led me to explore something similar with lamb. Cue this rolled lamb breast with a medley of rosemary, perejil, thyme, limón, ajo, cumin and paprika, and a lamb neck running through it. The result: stunning.
You can cook this in the oven, but it really comes into its own on a barbecue. Cooked on indirect heat, opposite the coals, then finished over the fire for that lick of smoke kicked up by the dripping fat, it brings out the very best in these under-used yet delicious cuts. Cordero breast isn’t that common in supermarkets, so you’ll probably have to source it from a local butcher.
Deberes 40 min
cocinero 3½-4½ hr
30g rosemary, picked and finely chopped
25g thyme leaves (es decir, from about 30 stalks)
40g bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and half the stalks, blanched and finely chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
3 dientes de ajo, pelado y triturado
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1½ tbsp sea salt flakes, plus extra for seasoning
3 lamb breasts – about 1.6kg in total
1-1½ lamb necks – about 500g
Put everything except the lamb in a large bowl, and mix to combine.
Lay out a large piece of greaseproof paper that’s the same size as the lamb breasts placed next to each other. Cut seven pieces of butcher’s string the length of the longest side, and lay them onto the paper at regular intervals. Lay the breasts on top of the string and paper, overlapping them by about 5cm along the longest sides. Using a meat hammer or a rolling pin, beat them to tenderise and flatten together, then scatter the herb mix evenly all over the surface of the bellies.
Lay the lamb necks along one of the short sides of what is now a large lamb breast rectangle. Entonces, with the neck closest to you, roll it up as tightly as possible, using the paper to help you do so. Once you’re almost at the end of the roll, bring up the other end of the paper to close the roll. Using the central piece of string, tie a tight knot to secure. Repeat with the two end strings, then tie the remaining three lengths of string in between the three knots and cut off any excess string. Drizzle olive oil all over the surface of the meat and sprinkle with more sea salt.
Light the barbecue with about 15 medium pieces of charcoal, in a chimney, Si tienes uno; if not, arrange the coals on one side of the barbecue and light them. Put a fireproof tray filled with water on the other side of the grate.
Once the coals are ready, either pour them from the chimney, si usa, onto the opposite side of the grate to the water, or spread them out if you’ve lit them directly on the grate so they’re no more than two pieces of coal high. Place the tied, rolled lamb on the side of the rack over the water and away from the coals, and close the lid.
Barbecue for three to four hours, at a temperature of about 150C – if your barbecue has no temperature gauge, you should be able to comfortably hold your hand 15cm above the coals for five to seven seconds. If it gets too hot, close the bottom vents slightly, if it gets too cool, open them. Add extra charcoal throughout the cook as required, to stop the coals burning out. If you have a probe, you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 70C; if not, stick a skewer right through to the neck inside – it’s ready when it goes through easily and the juices run clear.
Sear the lamb directly over the coals for 10 minutos, to crisp up the skin, luego quitar, cover and leave to rest for 20 minutos. Slice and serve with the fennel salad below.
Fennel salads and slaws are one of the staples of barbecue season – there’s something about its appealing crunch and aniseed back notes that just works with almost anything cooked over coals, be it red meat, pollo, fish or shellfish. This one is very, very easy, and none the worse for it.
Deberes 5 min
cocinero 5 min
2 fennel bulbs – about 230-250g in total
1 tsp salt
Jugo de 1 limón
5-5½ tbsp (20gramo) flat-leaf parsley leaves, picado
1 tsbp sumac
1 Cucharada de aceite de oliva
Fill a large bowl with iced water. Cut the roots off both fennel bulbs, then slice them as thinly as possible (use a mandoline, Si tienes uno) and add to the bowl. Leave to soak in the ice-cold water for five minutes, then drain and squeeze dry.
In a serving bowl, mix the salt, lemon juice, perejil, sumac and oil, add the fennel, toss with your hands to coat and serve.