I came up with this recipe to remind myself that I really do love Spain and the Spanish, in spite of their banking bureaucracy. I recently spent three days online and on the ‘phone trying to complete the anti-money laundering paperwork for our Spanish account, only to be told that I will have to pop into a branch. In Spain. ¡Ay, caramba! I live in the UK.
Lamb belly – or breast of lamb as it is sometimes known – is an economical cut but one that many people find too fatty. A lot of the fat is cooked out in the browning process here but in an ideal world you’d make the dish the day before, put it in the fridge and skim off any remaining fat when it was cold. Or do as I did and just blot the surface with some kitchen roll.
This tastes much better than I’m making it sound. Meltingly soft and very tasty: trust me, I’m a journalist. Well, at least I’m not a banker.
Spanish-style Lamb Belly
1 boned lamb belly, about 1.5 kg
A sprig or two of thyme, leaves picked from the stems
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled
1/2 tspn sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tspn sea salt
A dash of oil and a knob of butter, for frying
2 large onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 large red or yellow pepper, de-seeded and cut into chunks
4″ or 5″ piece of chorizo, skinned and sliced (or a heaped tspn of Spanish paprika)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A quantity of chicken stock
1 x 400g tin of haricot beans, butter beans or chickpeas
A handful of chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Crush the garlic with the 1/4 tspn of sea salt and add the 1/2 tspn of paprika.
If your meat is already rolled, unroll it and trim any fat and skinny bits that you can without compromising the rectangular shape. Smear the flesh side with the garlic paste, scatter with the thyme leaves and re-roll it tightly, starting at the thin end. Tie tightly with string.
Heat the butter and oil in a casserole large enough to hold all the ingredients and brown the meat all over.
Remove the lamb and discard all the fat in the pan. Now add the chorizo, if using, and fry so it releases some of its oil. Remove, blot on kitchen paper and set aside.
Wipe out the pan and put a good half of the onions in the bottom, mixed with the chopped tomatoes, pepper and chorizo. Season with a little salt and pepper. Nestle the lamb in the middle and top with the remaining onions. Add enough chicken stock to come halfway up the meat.
Put a piece of kitchen foil over the top and clamp the lid on that. Cook for three hours or until a knife poked into the lamb meets little resistance. Remove the lamb and keep warm, covered in foil.
Cook the sauce at a fast boil until it has reduced and intensified, then add the rinsed and drained beans or chickpeas and heat through gently. Check the seasoning and stir in a handful of chopped parsley.
Scoop into soup plates and serve the meat on top, sliced into thick rounds.
Yum, looks good. Hope you have sorted out your banking issues – have another glass of sherry, I say…
Yes, we are persona(s) grata again and they are graciously allowing money back into our account. The irony was that because the account was frozen pending us dropping by to complete the paperwork, we had to bring oodles of boodle over in cash to pay an outstanding bill, thus making us look like the money launderers the new legislation is supposed to guard against. But hey, the weather is great and yes, we have had recourse to the sherry bottle!
Ha! You should worry. We left France definitively 14 months ago, no longer have a bank account or address there, but the French authorities are still trying to dun us for tax for 2015, and attempting to get us to pay for a TV license. Think I’ll go and make some nice lamb belly, Spanish style, and calm down.
Oh mon dieu! I recommend a medicinal bottle of fino. It worked for me. 😉
This seems totally right up my alley – I am falling in love with Spanish food more and more every day (just visited for the first time). N.
Hi Nicole, thank you, glad you like the look of it. We’ve just got back from there and in spite of the nuisance factor of the banking problems, we had a lovely few days and ate some fabulous food. I’m going to be doing an occasional series on Spanish-inspired food so do keep an eye on Mrs P if you’re interested. All the best, Linda
Definitely, Linda and I am looking forward to the Spanish series – have you any particular region in mind? I’ve had some Catalan & Valencian food recently. Can’t wait to light the barbecue on the weekend and make another portion of charred spring onions & romesco sauce again, especially now that I have found the original nora peppers for it (although the pimenton version was super good). N.
I love calçots and spring onions make a great substitute. Romesco sauce really should be much better known. Our apartment is in Catalonia and my sister in law learned to cook Spanish food in Valencia, so that’s what we tend to cook, although we also make Mediterranean-inspired food too using home-grown or sourced ingredients. Where did you go to when you visited Spain?
We’ve been to Valencia & certainly caught the bug: such a beautiful town and interesting food. At present, I am trying to recreate a particular tasty empanadilla pistu we got in the Mercado Central – great lunch fare.
Yum, that sounds good, hope you’ll share when you’ve cracked it! Valencia is lovely and Barcelona one of my favourite cities. The markets in Spain are sooo good.
Oh, yes, yes, yes! I loved the Mercado Central, am looking forward to Barcelona next.