I’m probably not selling it to you very well, but like most economical cuts of meat it can be very good if you give it a long, slow cooking.
This is a lovely way to use it, full of fruity flavours that cut through any fattiness and North African spices that warm the cockles of your heart on a damp autumn day. The stuffing (she said modestly) is delicious. The sauce is very sweet, so if that’s not your cuppa you may prefer to leave it out.
This will serve 2-4 depending on the size of the lamb belly.
Stuffed Breast of Lamb Middle Eastern-Style
1 breast of lamb, boned (your butcher will do this for you)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
250g dried apricots
50g pine nuts
100-120g cooked rice (about 40g dried weight)
Zest and juice of 1 clementine or similar
1 heaped tbsp ras el hanout
1/4 tspn cayenne
Handful of chopped parsley
2 tbs mango chutney
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/Gas Mark 7 (you’ll be turning it down later).
I used leftover cooked rice, but if you’re starting from scratch, cook your rice according to the packet instructions.
Put 130g of the apricots in a small bowl, cover with warm water and set aside to soak.
Peel and quarter the onion and put in a food processor with the remaining apricots. Whizz until fairly finely chopped but stop before it turns into a paste.
Heat a glug of oil in a pan and fry the onion and apricot mixture gently for five minutes or so, until the onion is translucent but not brown.
Add the chopped garlic and the spices and cook for a minute or two more, then scrape it all into a mixing bowl.
In a dry pan, toast the pine nuts until they’re beginning to turn golden brown.
Add them to the onion and apricot mixture then stir in the cooked rice.
Zest the clementine over the bowl and squeeze in its juice.
Add the chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper and stir well to mix.
Open out the lamb breast and with a sharp pointy knife try to remove as much of the membranous skin as you can, without leaving the meat too ragged.
You should end up with a rough rectangle of meat. Spread the stuffing evenly over it.
Roll it up from the thick end and tie with butchers’ string into a neat sausage shape.
Make any leftover stuffing into balls and set aside. Season the meat.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a roasting tin and brown the meat all over. Handle it gently so you don’t lose your stuffing.
Cover with foil and place in the oven, immediately turning the temperature down to 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3. Cook for an hour, or until the meat is well cooked and tender.
After 40 minutes remove the foil and if there’s a lot of fat in the tin drain most of it off. Add the stuffing balls and continue to cook, uncovered, for the remaining 20 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, put the soaked apricots, together with their soaking water, into a small saucepan.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Whizz in a food processor or with a stick blender until you have a thick pouring sauce.
Stir in 2 tbs of mango chutney, taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.
When the meat is done, turn the oven up to 450F/230C/Gas Mark 8.
Tip any remaining fat out of the roasting tin, pour a liberal coating of apricot sauce over the meat and pop it back in the oven for 5-7 minutes.
Don’t leave it too long or the apricot will burn – the aim is just to glaze the meat.
Dress a crisp green salad with oil and lemon juice and serve on the side.