Spring has well and truly sprung in these parts. The daffodils have shown their smiling yellow faces to the world and retreated into their subterranean bulbs to see out the next three seasons. The weeds have bloomed again in every flowerbed and paving crack they can find and the horrendously expensive spring lamb has reared its bleating head (metaphorically, if not physically) in the better butcher shops around Dublin. So I knew I was going to have to do something with a leg thereof.
Without going all Shakespearian on you, the question arose as to how to cook it. Sous vide or not sous vide, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune etc. Sorry, I digress. Irish spring lamb is a real treat. It is also an expensive treat if you go too early, with a medium-sized leg of genuine spring lamb costing in the region of €50 at Easter. One can lay one’s hands on faux spring lamb for anything around €20 a leg. Trust me, there is a difference. A big difference.
The trick is to wait for a week or two after the panic of celebrating a chap being nailed to a cross. The price of a leg plummets and we can then feed the family without having to take out a mortgage. A nice leg of the genuine stuff made its way into my possession and I wanted to do something a bit different with it. Given my new-found love for all things sous vide, I decided to give it a whirl.
I also wanted to experiment further with pulses. So I decided to cook Sous Vide Leg of Lamb with Mixed Beans and Spinach.
For this dish of deliciousness, you will need the following:
- 1 leg of lamb (spring lamb from Ireland, not poor quality stuff from elsewhere)
- 3 teaspoons of fennel seeds
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- 400 grammes of spinach
- Your choice of tins of butter beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and such like. I used half a dozen tins.
- 500ml of good stock (I used chicken)
- A handful of mint
- Plenty of salt and black pepper
The most difficult part of preparing this meal was boning the lamb. Naturally enough, I have a picture of the action part of it. Though I have spared you the deep cutting and slicing end of things (for a change).
When the lamb is boned, rolled and tied with food grade string, throw the fennel seeds into a hot dry pan and fry them until they are just about to smoke. (Work it out for yourself, I can do it, so can you).
Rub all over with some olive oil.
Rub the oiled leg with the fennel and the rosemary.
Vacuum seal the lamb and pop it in the water bath. For the sous vide technicians amongst you, I cooked it for 8 hours at 55º C. Next comes the other technical bit. Open all the tins and rinse the beans.
Slice the mint.
When the lamb is cooked, add the stock to the beans in a saucepan and then add the spinach and mint. Heat through and wilt the spinach while you are at it. Stir to combine. Take the lamb out of the plastic bag.
Heat a frying pan and brown the lamb on all sides (or as best the shape of the lamb allows).
All that is left to do is to carve the lamb (like in the top picture) and serve it sitting on top of the pulses.
Getting back to the original question, “To sous vide or not sous vide?” The answer has to be resounding ‘Yes’. However, it might not be the right question. I suspect it better to ask “Should I get a leg of delicious Irish spring lamb and serve it with mixed lentils?” The answer to that one would be a big, fat ‘Yes’ too.
Go on, give it a go….