Saturday, 15 October 2011


Agnello in Camicia, poi Rosolato, con Orzo e Lenticchie Rosse con Puntarelle
Reverse-Cooked Lamb with Barley and Red lentils and Puntarelle 

I don't know what it is about lamb that makes me a little more nervous than other meat- but I am always worried about it becoming tough or dry on me. So this evening I decided to try cooking it in a slightly different way than usual. 

I took the lamb- it was a tender little piece of fillet and seasoned it with salt, pepper, rosemary, thinly sliced garlic, a bay leaf, a small splash of cognac and a little olive oil. I wrapped it tightly in Ceran wrap, twisting the ends together to bring it into a better shape. I then wrapped it again to be doubly sure no liquids could either get in or seep out. The next step was to "poach" it in a saucepan of water for around 15 minutes in hot water- simmering but not boiling. 80°C or so would be the right temperature.

In the meantime, let's start preparing our side dishes. This wonderful little creature is what is known in Italy as "Puntarelle" and is a member of the chicory family- a bitter endive. It has a thick, middle stalk, and then smaller, hollow "bulbs" which I simply snapped off. You can apparently soak them in ice water for an hour or so with a little salt and sugar to draw out some of the bitterness- but not me! I am Sicilian and I like it! It seems a bit silly to me- it would be a lot easier to just eat something that ISN'T bitter if you don't like bitter! But in any case- just so you can imagine the flavor- it is very similar to radicchio. I stir-fried mine in a little olive oil, with a bit of chopped garlic, salt, pepper and a light sprinkle of sugar. Easy!

The barley and lentils are equally easy to prepare. Pop the barley into a frying pan and add a small pat of butter- turn the heat up high and get it nicely coated. Add some finely chopped spring onion and parsley and continue frying for another minute or so and then de-glaze with some boiling water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and season with a little nutmeg, and a sprig or two of rosemary to infuse it with flavor. So now that the side dishes are doing ok- lets get back to our Lamb...

Remove the lamb from the heat and allow it to rest for a while, then snip off one end of the ceran wrap and drain off the juices, keeping them to add to the red wine reduction we are about to start working on. Saütée a very finely chopped shallot, a little carrot and a little celery in a small saucepan, in a little butter and sugar. Once the shallot begins to brown, pour in the juices from the meat and a glassful of red wine. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let nature take its course...

Keep the lamb warm whilst the sauce reduces and add the red lentils to the barley. Allow to cook for a further 5 minutes, but then turn off the heat and let it continue cooking, swelling and taking on all of those flavors. 

So now we need to unwrap our fillet of lamb and flash-fry it in some very hot clarified butter- just to give it a better appearance and also to bring our meat back up to temperature. This will take only 3-4 minutes.

By now, the meat should have a wonderful crusty outside and still be tender and juicy on the inside. This is the opposite of what most cooks do- usually you will fry your meat at a higher heat, then then finish it in the oven and last but not least, wrap it up in foil again and allow it to "rest". 

I hope you enjoy the extra photos!


  1. It all looks wonderful. The lamb is perfectly done, nice and pink the way I like it even if, as you say, most Italians (at least Romans) will make it well-done.

    I am jealous that you have access to puntarelle! In Rome, as I'm sure you know, it is practically a staple. I love it with a little anchovy dressing they way they typically make it there. Impossible to find Stateside as far as I know, so I substitute the tender hearts of curly chicory. Not the same but…

  2. Hello Frank! Glad you appreciate the post- I have to admit that this was a premier for me, but we have a wonderful market hall here in Frankfurt and a stall run by a Sicilian family that had them on sale. I guess I am lucky to be able to get some good produce here- but I would still rather live in the States! lol!