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On the Block: Rack of Lamb

12th June 2019
On the Block: Rack of Lamb

Here at Coombe Farm Organic, we love the really old-fashioned, traditional cuts. And they don’t come much more old-fashioned and traditional than rack of lamb. All the elements necessary for a really delicious roast are present and correct: tender meat, a good layer of sweet fat, bone left in. Plus, it looks like something you might eat at a banquet so is more than happy to take centre stage at any celebration meal.

Taste and texture

Our West Country lambs have the benefit of growing slowly on the lush pasture for which this region is known and this reflects directly in the meat they produce. A deep ruby-red colour, it has distinctive, well-matured flavour with fragrantly grassy undertones. The eye-meat that runs through the rack is some of the finest on the lamb carcass and it really packs in the characteristic, almost gamey, flavour for which lamb is known. A layer of superficial fat and delicate internal marbling mean this cut self-bastes as it cooks, ensuring it stays succulent.

Because the muscles you find in a rack of lamb haven’t work overwhelmingly hard, the meat is tender and finely grained. That translates into buttery softness when carved and melt-in-the-mouth texture when eaten. By thoroughly searing the rack before roasting, you can achieve super-crispy skin and well-rendered, delicious fat.

Where it’s cut from

Rack of lamb can be presented as a whole (comprising 7 ribs) or a half (comprising 3 ribs). Either way, it comes from the ‘best end’, found at the top of the back between the shoulder and the loin. The eye-meat in the rack is the fillet muscle that runs alongside the spine – the same muscle that’s found in best-end chops. When the rack is butchered, the rib bones are cut laterally, separating the rack from the lamb belly, also known as the breast.

How to cook it

As one of the most prized cuts on the lamb carcass, the rack deserves to be cooked well. Luckily that’s not too tricky. Although it best-suits being served rare, a frequent pitfall is aiming for the meat to be cooked pink and ending up with it underdone. A few things can help you avoid this:

  • Firstly, season the joint then sear it all over in a hot frying pan until the skin’s crispy and the fat’s starting to soften and render. Then go for a quick roast in a hot oven – about 18 to 20 minutes at 200°C conventional should do it, but it may take longer.
  • Secondly, test the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat when you remove it from the oven. Around 55°C will deliver medium-rare results.
  • Thirdly, let the joint rest, well wrapped in foil and covered with a tea towel, for at least 20 minutes before carving. Resting allows the meat to continue cooking in its residual heat while the fibres relax and the juices redistribute.

Give it a try

The hearty flavour of versatile rack of lamb means it can happily be served with either simple or punchy accompaniments.

  • Go simple and roast your rack on a generous bed of rosemary and garlic cloves. The aromatic flavours will be absorbed into the meat, complimenting its earthy-grassiness. Serve with a light cidery jus.
  • Go traditional and add a crust of mixed green herbs (including parsley, chives, tarragon and mint) mixed with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. To avoid having a flabby layer of fat under the crust, it’s important to sear the skin of the lamb as normal before spreading over a layer of mustard and pressing on the herb mixture. Soft, creamy dauphinoise potatoes making an excellent side. 
  • Go Moroccan by combining hot harissa paste with North African spices like cumin, allspice and coriander. Add a splash of lemon juice and plenty of chopped parsley before spreading the mixture all over the seared lamb skin. Serve with fluffy minted couscous and sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds.
  • Go sweet and offset the rack’s muscular meatiness with a honey, soy and mustard glaze. Accompanied by a rich red-wine sauce, some super-creamy mash and squeaky green beans, this makes an impressive Sunday lunch.

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