Lamb chops were a staple part of my childhood, usually simply roasted and served with baked potatoes and veg from the garden; simple but delicious. The loin from the top half of the saddle, the best end, is one of the most tender cuts of meat from the animal. Keep the chops attached and you have a rack of lamb, perfect to roast whole and carve into classic lamb cutlets. The bottom half of the saddle - the short saddle - does not have any rib bones and so you would normally just roast this as a piece of loin. Alternatively, if you remove the bone and carefully keep the belly flaps attached, you can stuff them with a filling of your choosing and tie them up with butcher's string. The fatty surrounding of the tender loin protects the meat during cooking, making it easier to keep it nice and pink.
Chopped spinach, lamb kidneys and black olives make for a deliciously rich filling. You can customise this as you like though – substitute the kidneys for mushrooms, for example. You can serve this stuffed lamb saddle with just about anything you like. For a summery feel, I've opted for yellow and green courgettes, cut into 'spaghetti' and sautéed in olive oil.
- 1 short saddle of lamb, belly flaps attached
- 3 large courgettes
- 3 large yellow courgettes
- 1 small shallot
- 1 small clove garlic
- 2 lamb kidneys
- 200 g baby spinach
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 6 pitted black olives
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
Carefully remove the bone from the short saddle, being careful not to leave any of the meat attached to the bone. Trim off the skin from the layer of fat, being very careful not to make any holes in the flap, as we need this intact in order to wrap around the loins. You now have 2 pieces of loin with a flap of fat attached to each. Place the layer of fat on a chopping board and bash it out with the flat part of a heavy knife, to flatten the fat to a nice thin layer. Again, be careful not to make any holes. Place the loins in the fridge.
Get a medium pan hot on the stove, and sauté the spinach with a pinch of salt until gently wilted. Transfer to a colander and leave to chill in the fridge. Meanwhile, finely chop the shallot and garlic and sweat slowly in olive oil until soft. Transfer to a bowl. Roughly chop the black olive and add to the bowl. Now take the lamb kidneys and remove the outer membrane. Cut in half lengthways and cut out the white gristle from inside. Cut the kidneys into 5mm dice, then fry in a hot pan until lightly coloured. Remove, and add to the bowl with the shallots, garlic and olive. Once the spinach is cold, squeeze all the remaining moisture from it by wringing in your hands. Mix together with the kidney and shallot mixture. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.
Divide the mix into two, one half for each loin. Lay out the loin on a board with the fat facing towards you. Place the spinach mix tight into the join of where the loin meets the fat, then roll it up, with the fat wrapping around the loin. Tie securely with butcher's twine. Repeat with the other loin. Place the stuffed saddles in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
Heat the oven to 180C. Cut 2mm slices off the courgettes lengthways, taking only the vibrant skin from the outside, and reserve the inner white part for another recipe. Cut the slices into thin strips. Set aside. Get a heavy based frying pan hot on the stove, and fry the stuffed saddles until lightly coloured all over. Place in the oven for 3 minutes, then turn over. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the inside temperature reaches 55C, which is medium rare. Leave the meat to rest on a rack for 15-20 minutes. Just before carving the meat, sauté the courgettes in olive oil until just cooked, and season with sea salt. Carve each loin into 3 pieces, and place on top of the spaghetti of courgettes. Serve with some nice crusty bread and a glass of white wine.