It’s remarkable what you can sniff out at the meat counter in the supermarket if you time your run. In Sainsbury’s yesterday I managed to purloin 3 sirloin steaks for £4.50 (down from £20/kg to £.650!), a kilo of sausages for £2 and a lamb neck fillet for £1.80. The trick, I believe, is to rock up a couple of hours before closing, when they are really just trying to fob off any meat that will be past its sell-by in the next couple of hours.
I had never tackled lamb neck before, but was aware that, like squid or octopus, it’s a case of either fiendishly hot, quick cooking, or long and slow. Anywhere in between and you will end up with something akin to a handbag in texture. In spite of giving the meat a good rest, I was still a wee bit alarmed by how rare it was, as in my book, lamb is best served medium to medium well done, having the tendency to be chewy if served too pink. Yet the neck was incredibly soft and tender and, sat lazily on a bed of pearl barley, with the zip of vinegary roast beetroot to lift this rich and frugal supper, was a very successful foray into the latest and trendiest ‘cheap cut’.
Lamb neck fillet with pearl barley and roast beetroot
1 large beetroot
A few thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
A good handful of chopped parsley
80g pearl barley
50ml red wine
500ml hot chicken stock
A 300g lamb neck fillet
A little red wine and stock
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Quarter the beetroot or cut into chunks. Place on a large sheet of tin foil, drizzle with vinegar, olive oil and thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Wrap up in the foil and roast for 45 minutes. Allow to cool – this only needs to be served a little warm.
Meanwhile, soften the shallot in a little oil with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and pearl barley and add the red wine. Simmer for a minute or two, then add the stock. Simmer gently uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Season the neck fillet with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. Get a heavy-based frying or griddle pan smoking hot and add the lamb. Fry for 4 minutes on each side, remove to a warm plate to rest for a good 10 minutes.
Add some wine and stock to the frying pan and scrape up all the lovely caramelised juices. Slice the lamb thickly and serve with the pearl barley and beetroot, drizzled with the remaining cooking juices.