After last night’s misfire with the lamb, tonight I regrouped and tried some of the loin chops included in my half lamb from Kenilworth Free Range. The loin chops are thick – probably an inch thick and they have a good layer of fat. I love the flavour of lamb fat and it cutting it off seems such a waste. This home-reared grass-fed meat has more fat than you would normally expect to see and, If I’m honest I would probably have chosen a leaner chop if I was shopping in the supermarket.
My objective is to render down a lot of the fat but leave a layer with a crispy outer coating and completely edible. I also want the meat to remain pink in the middle but with good colour on the outside. With thick chops, as with thick steaks it is easy to undercook.
As accompaniment I make some roasted vegetables – they go exceptionally well with lamb in my opinion. In this case the rest of last night’s mini – peppers, some red onion, carrots (love them roasted, and garlic. Just a swig of oil and plenty of seasoning and they can look after themselves in the oven with just the occasional turn.
I’ve got some baby potatoes left over and so I made crushed potatoes. This is a food “fad” that I am not entirely convinced by. I do still like a boiled potato and can eat them quite happily with just seasoning and a smear of butter. I don’t really understand what the crush is supposed to do. My wife would definitely prefer to go the whole hog with mash. The cooking is crucial so that they crush easily without disintegrating but there needs to be enough body for there to be a texture. The moisture level is also important because crushed potatoes seem to just absorb liquid. I added some mint, some white truffle oil, a little bit of the rendered lamb fat and some Greek yoghurt.
Finally I made some mint sauce. I like fresh mint sauce and it adds a freshness but also cuts through the fat well. I use a Delia recipe with plenty of chopped finely chopped mint, dashes of balsamic vinegar and cider vinegar, finely chopped spring onions and sugar to taste. Put the ingredients in a jar and add hot water before letting it steep while you get on with the rest of the meal. The resulting sauce is not your typical jar sauce which is intensely dark green with the leaves holding all the moisture. This is a much looser sauce and the mint-flavoured vinegar is the star rather than the other way around. The pieces of mint flecking the lamb is a nice presentational touch.
The chops are started in the frying pan. I stand them, fat down and let them fry in a hot pan for a couple of minutes, moving them to make sure the heat gets to all the fat. This quickly gets a crust on the fat and it renders really quickly; so much so that I needed to pour it away into a cup to stop this becoming very spitty and more of a deep-fry. The judgement call is on how long to fry the sides for – I did them in twos so I could keep an eye on them and gave about two minutes each side. I finished them in the oven for a further five minutes to cook through. I was really pleased that they were pretty close. I could have given them another couple of minutes in the oven.
First impressions are that this gives a pretty plate of food. The brightness from the roasted veg with the lovely colour of fried lamb and the creamy potato makes a good combination. These are big chops so they do look a little Flintstonian against the rest. The crushed potatoes are OK. I’m still not convinced but the flavour combination is good. The lamb is superb. The meat is very tender and full of flavour – sweet rather than gamey as good lamb should be. The fat is the star though. I am sure my arteries would beg for mercy but it is soooooo tasty.
For my £70 I’ve now had 11 plates of food from the “bits and pieces”, the offal and four loin chops. I’ve still got two shoulder and two leg joints, three more packs of chops and the breast to go.