A couple of weeks ago I visited my friend Jo in London. We dined at the fabulous Babur restaurant on the Saturday night and two dishes left me wanting to recreate them; their 100-hour marinated lamb and their clove smoked lamb chops.
I recently took delivery of a whole lamb from my local farm shop. This takes a little planning regarding clearing freezer space and there are plenty of jobs on day one but this is a delicious and economical way to feed my family.
I waste nothing so after loading my freezer with joints and chops I filled my stock pot with bones and made my first batch of stock. After about eight hours of simmering I strained it into a bowl and placed in the refrigerator. Treated like this, the fat solidifies on the top of the bowl and gets used for roast potatoes and the stock underneath can be reduced to make stock cubes (or since the slow cook means it gels, it is ready to use directly for soup dumplings).
I love breast of lamb but it takes up loads of freezer space so I put it in a roasting pan and tented it will foil. That went into the oven at 120°C for about six hours, until it was falling off the bone. Once cool enough to handle I then pulled out the thin shreds of meat and added the bones and fat to the stockpot with the bones I saved from the first pass. This meat is great in fajitas although last week it joined the spring greens from my veg box in a soup made with laksa paste (I stock up on pastes and soup bases when I visit Hong Kong).
The second batch of stock with the bones from the breast took another eight hours (on day two). This produces a less rich stock once the fat is removed from the top and either I combine the stocks (to reduce over a medium heat until they’re sticky and ready to pour into ice cube trays) or use the richer one for a gravy and the lighter one to make a casserole.
I didn’t quite have 100 hours but I cubed half a leg of lamb and combined the meat with oregano, smoked paprika, garlic granules and olive oil. The spices at Babur were far more elegant and complex but this was to be served to my somewhat fussy stepchildren and I was primarily testing the technique. After 76 hours I the meat in a cast iron casserole then added some lamb stock. It cooked beautifully and while my initial plan was to use the tandor, when I serve it in the restaurant, I’ll now be smoking it. Served with skin on roast potatoes and steamed purple sprouting broccoli, I was able to throw together a family supper while testing a restaurant idea.
Because I’m working Mother’s Day, I had my mum over for lunch a week early. As she loves lamb chops, this was the perfect opportunity to cook them. I used my smoker as a lidded barbecue and cooked the chops over medium coals. The key difference was that I soaked cloves in water then placed them in a foil container between the heat and the meat. The chops themselves had no prior treatment other than a salting first thing that morning.
The chops were pretty incredible but had more bite than the ones from Babur. It’s hard to say which I prefer; mine were slightly pink whereas the Babur chops were very well done. I think more experimentation needs to happen.