It was generally a lot of firsts for me, first time making mayonnaise from scratch, first time deep frying anything successfully, first time breading anything, and first time working with lamb breast. So in general with all the events in-between I'd love to give the lamb breast a second go, but here is the write up with a lot of useful links and what I found out in between.
Nigel Slater's Tartare sauce recipe and explanation was what I was aiming for: "The point of tartare sauce has always been to provide a piquant contrast to the mild-tasting food it accompanies. In one knife-sharp hit, this sauce of mayonnaise, gherkins, mustard and capers continually sharpens an appetite that would soon be dulled by mouthful after mouthful of crumbed or battered food."
However the method stating
"then slowly whisk in 250ml each of groundnut oil and olive oil, a little at a time"
"then drop by drop, seriously tiny amounts especially at the start with more whisking than you think....
Clearly you are supposed to know this, however I didn't.
Luckily Delia's Smith excellent, short and detailed guide here tells you not only what you need to know, but how to rescue it when it goes wrong and curdles. I can verify the rescuing method, does indeed work
Anyhow, fresh tarragon, djion mustard, parsley, capers and cornichon, looked, smelled (despite the false start) and tasted fantastic. Definitely something I'll do again, but think I'll experiment with the oil used. U did it on the night with both low fat Crème fraîche (full fat really needed), avocado oil (interesting and nice, but not recommended for tartare, and comes out quite yellow), and groundnut oil (the best I've tried so far and as recommended by the Nigel Slater recipe)
So this whole thing was inspired by the Great British food revival recipe here. I was cooking with some guidance from Page 295 of The River Cottage Meat Book, (also where the mash and orange and watercress salad idea came from).
Prep went absolutely fine
However the size of doing 4 breasts (you probably need to do 2 if you are going to cook for 4+ and are going to be fairly choosy in how much you strip out of them) meant that they would have tin foil lids, which didn't keep the cooking contained as well as a pot lid, and heavy earthenware casserole dishes taking a while to warm through. So the cooking time extended out to about 3h45m before I had to finish up where I was - I wasn't convinced it was enough.
The Meat book says "until the meat is completely tender" this is definitely the hard part about cooking Lamb Breast - smelt amazing, tasted great straight out of oven. Definitely not completely tender even after the extra time.
Getting the bones out of the breast is also harder than made out in the guides. There is a large section at one end which needs to be cut out and removed, short hard ribs, and then three or so soft ribs fanning out down the breast. These didn't easily push out as they were indicated to, so either it wasn't cooked as much as perhaps it could have been, or it's just a bit trickier. However after the first the hands got used to the action and the anatomy and it became easy enough. A little bit of knife work, and strong fingers solved it fine. However you are going to have more waste than you might thing, and the original size of the breast makes out.
This is the two major bits separated out.
Layering back into the dish for pressing. At this point time was scarce. More thinner layers would have been better.
And then after being quartered, frozen, defrosted and ready for preparation several days later
Thinly sliced, this would make amazing cold lamb sandwiches. It tasted great - like lamb roast leftovers and was my favourite way to eat it. I wish I'd used a little of the stock (which set firm in a jug) to spoon across, and layered, salt, pepper and some of the fresh cooked herbs in the layers so it set in just a fraction more jelly and kept the smaller pieces together.
Sliced ready for breading and deep frying. These were much thicker than the recipe planned for so I was using a meat thermometer to check they were completely cooked through in the centre, and upping the frying time.
So here is the rub. As you can see in the photos this was quite fatty and I was expecting this. However some of the pieces from the thick ends of the breast were fantastic. Some from the thin end, not so much. There are two layers of connecting tissue which are very noticeable towards the thin end and these were still tough when you hit them in some pieces.
If I did this again - I'd alter the recipe by:
1. Slice off the larger pieces of fat before the start of cooking, especially on the thick end.
2. Giving it a really hot start (230c) to get that fat rendering and some colour on.
3. Then cooking longer and slower to soften it more.
4. Then spending more time cutting out the fats, ribs, and either pulling apart the interconnected tissue, or discarding a lot more.
5. then slicing and layering more layers of thinner but more consistently meat layers for pressing
6. Layering with a spoonfuls of the stock imbetween layers (reduced by half or more), and with some of the herbs rescued and salt and pepper
7. Having a tighter fitting pressing material for the container, and possibly more weight, 4 pints of milk on each area rather than cans of beans sort of weight.
Breading was fine, and held together any loose pieces from pressing better than I thought. Frying was more tricky - 170c is the recommended oil temperature and this worked fine, but no more. Any more and the breadcrumbs went very hard and burnt without cooking anything very much inside.
However it still turned into a good meal. My daughter once again, being the litmus test, and providing the definitive review: "Chewy but Yummy".
Really interesting piece of meat, and think has the possibility to taste great, but definitely needs some fairly high effort preparation to be at it's best.
Looking forward to doing it again.