A Spring Breast of Lamb Recipe with Lemon and Rosemary

by sophie on April 5, 2007 · 19 comments

Post image for A Spring Breast of Lamb Recipe with Lemon and Rosemary

If you’ve read the post just before this one about sustainable lamb farming, you’ll know that I sometimes buy the lamb farmed by the Northmoor Trust at our local farmers market in Oxford (see their picturesque location above). The first time I bought their lamb I bought a pack with 2 rolled breasts of lamb in it; it was both a bargain and an item of complete foodie curiosity. It looked a bit like an over-sized, fat-streaked, rolled pinwheel of bacon, cut to a 2 cm thickness rather than the usual few millimetres. I left the market very happy that I would be able to put it to good use with a bit of help from Google and a few cookbooks, and while I’m not really into pigs ears and those sorts of things, it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling to be using a cut that might otherwise have been overlooked.

So, on to the day of the cooking of the lamb. What did Google have to say for itself? Not much really is the answer. I thought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would be the man to search for, him being a champion of cheap and lesser known cuts of meat. I did find his recipe for breast of lamb Ste Ménéhould, apparently a recipe from The River Cottage Meat Book, but it sounded very complicated (cooking on one day, resting overnight under jam jars and then coating in breadcrumbs and cooking again the next day). The other sites were a real mixed bag and bought up more questions than they answered. Did it matter that I have breast of lamb rather than breast of mutton? Could I use a recipe for bone-in lamb when mine has been deboned? Most importantly, what do you do when you want to cook and eat on the same day? The only recurring theme seemed to be that stuffing was the way to go if you had a piece of boned breast meat.

And the cookbooks? I have a lot of cookbooks, so I was quite upset with the lot of them that only one that came up with a suggestion for using lamb breast. That gold star goes to Tamasin Day Lewis’ from her Good Tempered Food. She has a recipe for Grillade of Breast of Lamb, more of a dinner party dish with anchovies and red wine vinegar, but again it was one of those recipes that you have to make across several days.

Anyway, it was all so confusing that I decided to make something up and keep my fingers crossed that it would all work out for the best. There were a lot of sites that mentioned that this was a fairly fatty cut of meat so a stuffing with spring-inspired flavours like fruit, citrus and rosemary sounded like it might work. Slow cooking also seemed to be the order of the day and so a steady roasting with a little white wine to keep the meat moist also sounded worth a try.

The end result turned out pretty well so I’ve posted it here ready for the next person who blithely buys a breast of lamb then realises that they have no idea what to do with it! The meat is full flavoured and kept moist by the wine while the lemon peel and dried fruit in the stuffing lighten what might otherwise be a little rich and heavy. This is a fatty cut of meat though so it does require a bit of attention as you eat it to cut the biggest bits of fat away (or to pick the pieces up and chew all of the nuggets of meat out from around the fat). A lot of the fat is on the inside of the roll so it doesn’t all go attractively brown and chewy which saved me from just eating the lot. Mind you, it’s horses for courses on this bit; my other half had a pretty much empty plate at the end of it all. Perhaps not the healthiest thing to have for Sunday lunch every week then.

I haven’t tested this theory but I like to think that much of the flavour was a result of using well treated lamb reared in a very natural environment. Breast of lamb is a very cheap cut so this is a great opportunity to buy organic if you don’t normally, or to find out about a local farmer who rears his sheep in a sustainable way that is animal and environmentally mindful. For anybody who likes to know these things, I did have a look into the nutritional composition of this cut in comparison with others. The meat from roasted breast of lamb contains 18.5g of fat per 100g, or 29.9g if you eat both the fat and the lean. In comparison roast leg of lamb contains about 9.4g of fat per 100g of meat or 14.2g for both the fat and the lean.

Spring breast of lamb

Recipe for a Spring Breast of Lamb Recipe with Lemon and Rosemary

A note about quantities before you start. I get the impression that each breast of lamb varies in weight and fat content which is why I have given the weight of the lamb I used here. The recipe below would feed three comfortably. The recipe makes slightly more stuffing than you need so you can buy slightly bigger pieces of lamb or another small breast without having to increase the amount of stuffing that you make.

2 boned pieces of breast of lamb (about 650g in total)
200ml White wine
Olive oil

For the stuffing
1 and half slices of wholegrain bread
2 cloves of garlic
1 large sprig of rosemary
1 tbsp dried cranberries or cherries
1 tbsp sultanas
1 lemon

To hold it all together
Kitchen string

About thirty minutes before you want to start preparing, soak the dried fruit in freshly boiled water.

When you are ready to cook, put the oven on at about 160 C, 325 F, Gas mark 3.

With a small food processor (or a lot of chopping), blitz up the garlic and breadcrumbs. Add the rosemary leaves and blitz again briefly.

Drain the dried fruit and add it to the breadcrumb mixture. Grate the zest of the lemon in and then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice from one half only. Season the stuffing with a little salt and plenty of pepper and stir.

Lay the lamb breasts out flat on a chopping board and place a good dollop of stuffing across one of the narrow ends of the meat (as much as you think you can get away with without it all falling out of the sides). Roll the meat very carefully round the stuffing and tie it securely with a couple of pieces of string.

Put a tiny bit of olive oil in a heavy oven-proof pan that has a lid. Fry the rolled up piece of lamb in the oil for about five minutes in total, until each side is lightly browned. Pour in the wine, put on the lid and transfer to a hot oven for an hour or so.


tigerfish April 5, 2007 at 21:31

I love the idea of slow-cooking! The flavors are always so good…without much seasoning.
Thanks for visiting my blog.

nick April 6, 2007 at 11:13

Sounds like you devised a suitably fantastic recipe for a wonderful piece of well reared lamb. I have to admit a weakness for lamb fat – unhealthy, I know, but delicious.

Ros April 11, 2007 at 13:11

I think it’s great that you’ve got access to such good quality and well reared meat. I recently bought HFW’s meat book and i’m really enjoying it. I know what you mean though- some of the recipes seem a bit time consuming.
At the moment I’m trying to find a good butcher, which has been really difficult since I’m in the center of London and surrounded by supermarkets.

Michele December 30, 2007 at 13:21

I now live in Greece and the butchers on my island only sell lamb in half lamb sections so you get the whole thing to deal with.
I also get goat/kid in the same way.
One great way I have found to use unfamiliar cuts of meat is to marinade the meat for about 1-2 hours (all the websites say in a fridge but I take chances and do it at room temperature using very cold liquids and chilled meat straight from the fridge) then bring the marinade liquid to the boil in a pressure cooker pan add the meat and some veg and a few herbs etc and then pressure cook for an hour (if you have a fairly gentle pressure cooker like the one I bought at Lidl) and for less if you have one of those super duper high powered monster efforts like the Americans go in for.
The result is an amazingly tender meal. If you are worried about fat content (which isn’t an issue with goat meat) then you can let the ‘casserole’ go cold and skim the fat off the top and then reheat the casserole once it has been defatted.
Just vary the herbs and the marinade mixture for different results.
I went over the top last time and used a mixture of local red wine, local balsamic vinegar, lemon juice from the lemons from our garden and local olive oil.
I am enjoying your blog by the way. Now I have moved it is only now I realise what awful food we were eating in the UK.
Here in our Greek island we mostly eat local produce which is extremely fresh and we are making nearly everything we can at home – even our teenage son has developed a talent for baking bread!!!

KimdaCook November 7, 2008 at 09:44

Slow cooking i find the best way of cooking most meat as it stays more juicy and tender.

L Web November 7, 2008 at 09:46

Just happened to come across this site this morning was looking for new recipe ideas with lamb been pretty bored with the ones I have, just love this one going to try it out for my dinner tomorrow. Thanks

Kim Cooking November 7, 2008 at 09:48

We are very lucky in South Africa to get really great fresh lamb, I just love lamb but can become very boring when cooking it one runs out of ideas.

Jo March 3, 2010 at 21:23

Just happened to stumble on your site whilst looking for Breast of Lamb recipe. You perfectly described my googling plight! I read your blurb at the end of the page and totally take my hat off to you for your principles and point of view, and very astute observations.

Hannah May 24, 2010 at 17:35

Your post made me smile, as I too bought said breast of lamb from Camilla and Roly at Northmoor, did the google search, balked at the HFW recipe involving squashing with jam jars…and happily ended up here! Thanks for making the process easier for those of like minds!

eleanor williams July 13, 2010 at 10:54

My friend has a small holding which she rears sheep on so we inevitable have a large stash of hogget breast in the freezer however, after this recipe the stash is now shrinking!
I leave out the suggested fruit though, chuck in a couple of chopped apricots instead and cook for about half the cooking then finish off on the BBQ.
Gorgeous. Good crowd pleaser too especially in a pitta or wrap with some salad tyoe gubbins.

Sophie July 28, 2010 at 20:47

Hannah – glad to have helped out! I must admit I haven’t found it easy to get to the Farmers Market since I stopped working in town so I haven’t been able to buy any Northmoor lamb for a while (must do something about that)
Eleanor – thanks for sharing your tips, I’m very keen on your idea of finishing it off on the barbecue and serving with pitta and salad

Kerry King February 9, 2011 at 16:41

Well thank goodness for that. I found a ridiculously cheap lamb breast at the supermarket and thought, what the hell, I’m bound to have a recipe for it in one of the squillion or so recipe books I own. And do you know, despite owning 2 Tamasin Day-Lewis books (I, like you, thought she’d be a good place to start) and quite literally about a hundred others including the CONRAN Bible of meat, game, poultry and fish, I could not find a single one. Whilst Googling, I came upon several like you mentioned, that require you to convert an entire section of your kitchen into an altar to the lamb breast whilst marinading over the course of the next fortnight or so, following which it is to be chastised with carpet beaters before being coated in crumbs and left for another fortnight…. after all of which one would have humbly lost interest in the blinking thing anyway.

So, off to the supermarket I go in search of cranberries!

sophie February 11, 2011 at 11:48

Hi Kerry, let me know how it turns out once you find your cranberries! It’s shocking how few recipes there are out there for breast of lamb, especially in those really meat oriented books and I can’t be doing with those several days recipes either. I’m intrigued that you found breast of lamb in supermarket – do tell me which one if you pop back here?

Karen Leyton February 27, 2011 at 15:26

Like you, I bought some boned breast of lamb at a farmers’ market and was uninspired by recipes for it on the internet. Unlike you, I decided to turn it into a lamb stew. That way, it keeps its moisture and you can spoon off the fat. I used four rolls of breast and whatever vegetables I happened to have to hand. I’m on the GI diet so didn’t use potatoes, but have found jerusalem artichokes, cannelloni beans or pearl barley give it that nice creamy flavour just as well. Lots of carrots, celery, leeks, 2 large onions, a whole large bulb of garlic plus herbs from the garden – marjoram, rosemary, bay leaves (what was available in winter). Cooked slowly, I started by browning the meat with the onions then adding some garam masala before straining off the fat and adding the veg, white wine, lots of mild mustard (I can’t recommend the isle of wight garlic farm’s garlic, horseradish mustard too highly). Every so often, I spooned off the fat and scum. After slow cooking on the hob for one and a half hours, I added one each chopped red and green pepper, a dozen tomatoes (I like tomatoes) and a whole bunch of finely chopped coriander, and cooked the stew for a further half hour. I then tried removing the lamb from the stew, rolling it and browning the outside under the grill before serving it with the stewed veg. It was tasty, but wouldn’t win any prizes for presentation.

josh March 1, 2011 at 20:21

i tried this recp. and it turned out great then i tried it but i put fresh orange all over it and fresh basil ill tell u it was a five star meal in my own home…. thanks alot for the idea it was a great one but i enjoy trying other things as well….. u should try it out…… thanks again it was a great tasteing lamb… its hard to find any good ones for it

ginnt stamm July 19, 2011 at 05:00

i found sustainably raised breast and was sure i’d find a recipe in one of my many cookbooks. wrong! i will try yours first, and then some of the variations you inspired. thank-you, and thank-you repliers.

Sue January 5, 2012 at 11:57

“The end result turned out pretty well so I’ve posted it here ready for the next person who blithely buys a breast of lamb then realises that they have no idea what to do with it!”

That’s why I’ve turned up here! It seems a shame to waste the fat so I’ll probably add some borlotti etc beans to extend it. Decent lamb is difficult to find where I live in Italy: they kill it young and then cut into random chunks plus it’s very expensive, so my bit came all the way from the UK!

Daughne July 4, 2013 at 11:49

Really glad I found your recipe as I was going to endeavour to make one up myself for the lamb I brought but you have helped me out with it,I’m going to try some morrocan spices in with the orange and see how that flavours it so will let you know.
Love swapping recipes so will keep your blog for future experiences.
Many thanks again.

ray October 20, 2013 at 23:18

great recipe

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