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Lamb Neck
- Slow Cooked
White Hat
Lamb Neck
- with leeks
White Hat
Lamb Neck
- Slow Cooked
White Hat
Lamb Neck
- with herbs
White Hat

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Lamb Neck

Lamb Neck

Recipes and tips

Lamb Neck

Lamb necks are one of the cheapest cuts of meat available. If you re after some hearty comfort food and only have loose change in your pocket then lamb necks are a good way to serve four people for less than the price of one Big Mac. Lamb shanks used to be a good standby but the prices have gone up to anywhere between $4 and $6 at the markets and as for the supermarkets - but only the uber rich shop for meat at the supermarkets. Lamb necks are still (May 2013) only $1 or $2 each at the South Melbourne Market (see below) for large meaty ones. Needless to say, if they are large they won’t be ‘lamb’ but hogget or mutton, but that s better because they have more flavour and long slow cooking will get rid of any toughness.

Lamb necks at South Melbourne Market

Here are two ways we like to cook them.

Hearty lamb neck casserole

Have your butcher trim off any excess fat, cut them up and trim the tendons. If it’s peak hour at the market having them cut is all a cheapskate customer like you can expect when you are holding up the lady wanting to buy a piece of eye fillet, but that s fine - you can do the rest yourself and your meat will end up tastier than hers.

.Hearty lamb neck ingredients

In a plastic bag (I know, I know, you never use them, but try doing this in your fancy green cloth bag) place some plain flour, paprika and ground pepper and shake your next pieces one at a time in this mixture to coat them. Brown them in a heavy bottomed casserole dish and remove them.

Browned lamb necks

Deglaze the pan with some white wine. It is a little known fact that the wine that has been sitting at the top of the bottle is chemically unsuited to deglazing so it is necessary to drink that portion at this stage. When the pan is nearly dry again add olive oil, chopped onions and garlic. Traditionally carrots and celery would also be added but anyone who grew up on a diet of Women s Weekly casseroles will probably choose to forego the sweetness of carrot and head for some of the more bitter vegetables such as fennel and squash or whatever s in the crisper draw. It doesn’t matter if the vegetables are a bit limp - they will be unrecognisable after three hours cooking. Chilli is good too, but just enough to add depth of flavour rather than substantial heat. It’s a useful chance to use those anaemic banana peppers that don’t have enough sweetness to call themselves a capsicum but on the other hand not enough testosterone to call themselves a chilli. Herbs are also good at this stage but don t bother with any of your namby-pamby designer hydroponic vaguely green creations that are long on shelf life but short on flavour. Better to use something hearty like rosemary or bay leaves and bruised juniper berries.

Once the vegetables have softened it’s time to add tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes would be good but that would double the price of the dish and wouldn’t be particularly noticeable at the end, so save them for salad. Canned tomatoes are fine. We prefer to use whole peeled tomatoes with the often-inferior juice in which they are packed drained away. Break up the tomatoes, add some chicken stock and a little more wine, remembering that the top part is unsuitable for cooking but fine for drinking.

Lamb necks in sauce

Bring the mixture up to the simmer then return the meat, cover with baking paper to keep the steam in, place the lid on the casserole dish and cook in a medium oven for several hours, turning the meat from time to time.

Baking paper covering casserole

At this stage the cooking sauce is ready to be removed, cooled and stored overnight. ‘Twice cooked’ is the term you will see in restaurants rather than ‘cooled to remove the fat then reheated’. After several hours we remove the meat and pour the sauce into a thinnish tall container (tall and thin makes it easier remove the fat rather than short and fat) suited to the door of the fridge so that excess fat can be removed the next day. In theory meat and sauce are stored at least overnight but we have to admit that our lamb necks rarely make it to the fridge without a substantial chunk being devoured.

The next day, or whenever you are ready to reheat, return the meat and sauce to the casserole dish. At this stage we like to add some olives or capers to further darken the flavour of the sauce. The aim is to have a thick syrupy sauce rather than the thin soupy boarding-school-variety. If it gets too thick you can always add some more wine - in fact it s good to keep the bottle nearby just in case. We also like to add quartered lemon which always goes well with lamb. Hearty greens are needed for some contrast. Flat leaf parsley is good but chopped celery leaves are even better.

Mashed spuds are the obvious companion and some sweet vegetables on the side to contrast with the deep flavours of the meat and the sauce - failing that, some sweet chutney works well. Two large necks at $2 each will feed four people and the flavour of the meat is much richer than your poncy leg of lamb so you don’t need as much. Relatives and visitors can sometimes get squeamish about the concept of lamb necks so for that reason I suggest you call it Mouton Cuit Deux Fois.

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Lamb neck with spring vegetables in broth

Lamb neck ingredients

In the warmer months lamb necks can make a lighter more delicate meal. For this recipe you need the type of lamb necks that are cut into thick discs. Soften some onion and garlic in olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan on the stove. Ideally you want a pan or dish large enough to fit your 3 or 4 neck discs in one layer. Add the necks and brown on both sides. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper (but no flour in this case because we are looking for a fairly clear broth). When suitably browned add just enough cold water to cover the meat. You don’t need stock in this case because the meat and the bones are going to create their own. Add carrots and celery cut into bite sized pieces along with a couple of bay leaves and some lemon thyme (or whatever suitable herbs you have in your garden or window box.

Lamb neck with herbs

Bring the water to the simmer, then cover and simmer slowly for several hours. During those several hours you could vacuum or do the washing, but our research has shown that the vibrations produced by such activity in the house interferes with the delicate balance of the newly forming broth so it is safest to put your feet up, pour a glass of whatever you fancy, and read a book. You owe it to your valued family or friends not to spoil the quality of their meal. After several hours, remove the lid and add some fresh spring greens. If you don’t have any handy, frozen peas and/or beans are fine. You might also want to add some canned pulses such as broad beans or cannellini beans which have been drained and rinsed well - we suggest not too many. Finally a garnish of freshly chopped delicate herbs such as parsley, basil, chives, mint or whatever you have to hand. For serving, extract one neck piece and some assorted vegetables per serve.

The broth presents three options.

  • The meat and veg can be served on a low flat plate in some broth with some toasted crusty bread on the side to soak up any excess liquid
  • The broth can be served on the side in small bowls
  • The broth can be omitted and discarded - HANG ON A MINUTE - that’s first rate lamb broth - put in the fridge overnight, remove any excess fat and use it as meat stock in your future cooking

During the cooking you will notice that the fat that was originally on the necks has considerably reduced in size. That’s because the wonderful Slimming Fairy has visited and spirited it away to a place where it won’t have any effect on your overall weight or shape and all thats left behind is a lovely glistening sheen on the broth as a reminder of her magical deeds - at least that s what we at White Hat believe. Lamb in broth doesn’t really need much in the way of accompaniments. Maybe some mild mustard or even mint sauce but nothing too overpowering - except in the case of Uncle George who you know is going to smother it in salt before he even tastes it. Sometimes you get no thanks for going to the effort of keeping vibrations down in the house while it was cooking.

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