Mutton, Cider, Chicory, Leeks, Pickles

Mutton is probably the most under-rated meat there is and it’s such a shame that it’s fallen out of fashion so badly: only quite recently Irish stew would have been made with a much older animal rather than the far more expensive and less robust tasting lamb. It’s pretty much impossible to find nowadays without ordering specially which is very unfortunate because it’s a fantastic product. Luckily I have a brilliant online source in Johns Meat Co in Monkstown who’s always been able to fulfil my unusual and occasionally mad requests.

For this recipe I decided to go for a contrast of two very different cuts: I ordered a rack and butchered out the tender rib eye muscle and cooked it sous vide (medium rare) and I also got the belly and braised it in cider in the pressure cooker. My original intention with the belly was to shred it and make croquettes but I didn’t have time and ended up reusing a trick where you shape the meat into discs and brown on either side. Of course, if you don’t have a water bath a fifteen minute blast in the oven at 220°C should be fine but the reason I’ve included such a niche preparation is that there is very little information online for cooking mutton in this way.

Butchered half rack of mutton (I cut it in half so it would fit in my water bath)

Half a rib eye awaiting the water bath

The rest of this dish is pretty straightforward, the sauce is just the braising liquid reduced and to help cut through the richness I lightly pickled some parsley root (which I found in the Dublin Coop) and swede using a recipe I read on the excellent Kitchen 72 blog. Something to be wary of is that chicory can be quite bitter so if you’re not a fan I’d substitute with something in season like purple sprouting broccoli.

Mutton, Cider, Chicory, Leeks (I know I forgot to take a picture with the pickles!)

This is what a previous incarnation of the dish looked like, this time with pickles.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the pickles
45ml cider vinegar
15g sugar
4 peppercorns
5g salt
1l water
1 parsley root
1 swede

For the mutton rib eye
1 rib eye from rack of mutton
30g butter
Salt
Grape seed oil

For the mutton belly:
Grape seed oil
1 mutton belly
1.25l cider
Bones and trimmings from rack of mutton
250ml veal stock
150g onions, finely sliced
75g celery, diced
75g carrot, diced
10 peppercorns
2.5ml fish sauce
2 sprigs rosemary
5ml balsamic cider vinegar
30g butter

For the chicory
2 heads of chicory, halved
50g butter
Salt

For the leeks
8 small leeks, about 2cm wide
15g butter

Method:

  1. For the pickles, shave 12 thin slices off a peeled parsley root using a peeler.
  2. Cut a 2x8cm rectangle out of the swede and shave 12 thin slices off that.
  3. Bring the water to the boil and add the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns and shavings.
  4. After two minutes take the pot off the heat and leave to steep for 2-3 hours.
  5. For the rib eye, season the mutton and seal in a vacuum bag with the butter.
  6. Cook in a water bath at 55.5°C for 1 hour (this depends on thickness so check the Baldwin tables for a precise time).
  7. For the mutton belly, place a pan over a high heat and when hot, add the oil.
  8. Brown the belly all over and place in a pressure cooker.
  9. Put the pan you cooked the meat in over a low heat and add the onions and cook until golden, around 25 minutes.
  10. Increase the heat, deglaze with the cider and boil for around 5 minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol.
  11. Add all the ingredients bar the butter and cider balsamic vinegar to the pressure cooker.
  12. Bring the pressure cooker up to full pressure and cook for 1 hour.
  13. Let the cooker depressurize naturally and then remove the belly.
  14. Shred the meat taking care to remove any bones, tendons and gristle. Reserve.
  15. Strain the liquid from the pressure cooker into a pan and boil over a high heat until reduced by three quarters.
  16. Mix 25ml of the reduced sauce with the shredded meat and season. Reserve the rest of the sauce.
  17. Shape the meat into a cylinder.
  18. Get a large rectangle of cling film and place the cylinder in the middle of the film and wrap it tightly around the meat. Twist the ends a few times and roll the mixture to make a nice solid sausage shape.
  19. Place in the freezer for 45 minutes to firm up and then reserve in the fridge.
  20. For the chicory, blanch the halves in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes to reduce some of the bitterness.
  21. Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a pan until foaming.
  22. Add the blanched chicory halves cut side down and lower the heat.
  23. Cook until golden brown on the underside (around 25 minutes). Reserve and keep warm.
  24. For the leeks, trim the green leaves from the top of the stalks.
  25. Melt the butter over a medium heat and when it stops foaming add the leeks.
  26. Sautee until tender, around 5 minutes. Reserve and keep warm.
  27. Put a dry pan over a high heat for around five minutes until very hot.
  28. Remove the mutton cylinder from the fridge and slice into 2cm rounds.
  29. Take the mutton from the water bath and remove from the vacuum bag.
  30. Pat dry and then add some oil to the pan.
  31. Brown the mutton all over (roughly 30 seconds per side).
  32. Leave the mutton to rest and brown the mutton rounds on either side (around 30 seconds).
  33. Reheat the cider sauce and add the cider balsamic vinegar.
  34. Swirl in the butter until fully incorporated.
  35. Slice the rested mutton into 8 even pieces.
  36. To plate, place two rounds of belly and two of the rib eye down the middle of the plate; place the chicory to one side and lay the leeks in between rounds; roll up the pickles (3 of each) and place around the plate; spoon the sauce over the meat.

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