We are very lucky to get all our lamb direct from Ring of Kerry Lamb. Lamb neck is one of the most underrated cuts of lamb, as people only think of using it in a stew, but it turns into something quite magical during the confit process. You can also confit the shoulder or shank with excellent results.
For the Confit Neck of Lamb:
- 1 lamb neck, trimmed (about 225g (8oz) in total)
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 600ml (1 pint) duck fat
- 1 tblsp rapeseed oil
- Knob of butter
For the Herb-Crusted Loin:
- 150ml (¼ pint) rapeseed oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tblsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tblsp Dijon mustard
- 2 x 500g (1lb 2oz) lamb loins, well trimmed
- 50g (2oz) white breadcrumbs
- 2 tblsp chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as mint, basil and flat-leaf parsley)
- Egg wash (made with 1 egg and 1 tbsp milk), for brushing
For the Sweetbreads:
- 50g (2oz) lamb sweetbreads, soaked in cold salted water overnight in the fridge
- 100ml (3½fl oz) milk
- ½ onion, sliced
- ½ carrot, sliced
- 3 black peppercorns
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt
- 25g (1oz) seasoned plain flour
- Egg wash (made with 1 egg and 1 tbsp milk), for dipping
- 100g (4oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
- Groundnut oil, for deep-frying
For the Baby Carrots:
- 8 baby carrots, trimmed and peeled
- 1 tsp softened butter
- ½ tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Onion tart tatin, halved (see link below), to serve
- Pea and mint purée (see link below), to serve
- Garlic confit (see link below), to garnish
- Rosemary jus (see link below), to garnish
- Garlic foam (see link below), to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 130°C (275°F/gas mark 1).
- To make the confit, place the lamb neck in a small casserole dish with the garlic, herbs and duck fat. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 3 hours, until completely tender but still holding its shape. Leave to sit in the duck fat to rest.
- When cooled, remove the lamb and pat dry with the kitchen paper, then roll tightly with tin foil to create a round cylinder shape about 2.5cm (1in) in diameter and 12.5cm (5in) long. Place in the fridge overnight to firm up.
- To marinate the lamb loins, mix the oil in a shallow non-metallic dish with the garlic, rosemary and mustard. Add the lamb, turning to coat, then cover with clingfilm and chill overnight to allow the flavours to combine.
- To prepare the herb crust, place the breadcrumbs in a food processor with the mixed herbs and blend for 5 minutes, until green and fragrant.
- Remove the lamb loin from the marinade and wipe off any excess with kitchen paper, then brush over the egg wash and press on a thick layer of the breadcrumbs. Put on a plate and chill until needed.
- Rinse the sweetbreads very well under cold running water, then place in a pan with the milk. Add the onion, carrot, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf. Place on a low heat and bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool down completely.
- Strain the liquid from the sweetbreads and discard. Using a small, sharp knife, clean away the outer membrane and any sinew.
- Cut the sweetbreads into quarters and season with salt, then coat in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in the egg wash, then roll in the breadcrumbs until well coated. Put on a plate and cover with clingfilm and chill until needed.
- To roast the herb-crusted loins, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6). Allow the lamb to come back to room temperature, then arrange on a roasting tin with a wire rack.
- Roast for 8-10 minutes, until the crusts are golden and the lamb is medium rare. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, then carve each one in half.
- While the lamb is in the oven, trim the ends off the lamb neck confit and then cut into 4x2.5cm (1in) thick pieces and remove the tin foil. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil and butter. Once the butter is sizzling, add the lamb pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown.
- Blanch the baby carrots for 3-4 minutes in a pan of boiling salted water. Drain and quickly refresh under cold running water. Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the carrots to just warm through. Tip in the parsley and toss until evenly coated. Season to taste.
- To cook the sweetbreads, heat the oil until it reaches 190°C (350°F) in a deep-fat fryer or deep-sided pan. Deep-fry for about 2 minutes, until golden brown, then drain on kitchen paper and keep warm.
- To serve, arrange a piece of lamb loin, confit and sweetbread on each warmed plate with half an onion tart tatin. Add the pea purée to each plate and garnish with the garlic confit, rosemary jus and garlic foam.
A lot of preparation can be done in advance. The confit of neck and sweetbreads can be made up to 2 days in advance and the loins can be marinated overnight. Just make sure that everything is well covered and chilled and never mix cooked and raw meats together on the same tray.
Rioja Reserve goes well with almost all lamb dishes. Alternatively, try a Nebbiolo wine from Piedmont, Italy, such as Barolo or Barbaresco.