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Retro Bistrot Recipe

Issue: TW11 April '14

I AM A WELSHMAN and for my money there’s nothing better than a bit of Welsh lamb around Easter time. Wales has a lot of family-run, sustainable farms and those farmers have known for generations that if you look after the environment, the environment will look after you. They produce good quality lamb and I love cooking it. It’s such a delicious light spring dish.
Working at a French restaurant we like to take British classics and add a European twist – hence the Peas a la Francaise, using Italian pancetta and French garlic. Personally I love colour in my dishes and that fresh green of the peas works beautifully with the lamb.

Braised Lamb Breast with Peas a La Francaise
Serves: 4–6

½kg block of pancetta cut into cm dice or lardons
2 large onions peeled and diced
1 whole bulb of garlic
2 litres fresh white chicken stock
1/2 bunch of thyme and plenty of mint stalks
1 boned and rolled lamb breast (you can ask your butcher to do this for you)
2 litres cooking white wine
2 garlic bulbs just cut through the middle
Half bunch of thyme and rosemary
A generous helping of fresh peas per person
A handful of sliced baby gem lettuce per person

BraiseD lamb breast:
The lamb will take between 4-6 hours cooked slowly at 160 degrees, gas mark 3. It’s best to colour the lamb breast first in a very hot frying pan to lock in all of those juices. Season well and colour to golden brown then place the lamb into a roasting tray and put all the aromatics and wine into the tray. Cover with foil and place in the centre of the oven. Check after about 4 hours and it should be falling apart as you pull at it.

For the peas a la francaise:
First Blanche the pancetta in water. Pass off the liquid and leave to one side. Get a large pan nice and hot with olive oil and then start to colour off your pancetta. When it’s nicely coloured add in your onion and garlic. Tie all of your herbs together with string and place that inside too (saves you fishing around for the herbs later).
When the pancetta, garlic and onion is nicely coloured and sweated down, add half a litre of cooking white wine. Reduce down until it’s almost evaporated then add the chicken stock. You shouldn’t need to add any more salt to this as the pancetta seasons the dish really well. Reduce the stock down by around half then take off the heat. That’s the base done.

When you’re ready to serve add a generous helping of fresh garden peas, plenty of chopped mint and a good handful of sliced baby gem lettuce. Done.

Personally I like to add a knob of butter to my peas and a few drops of truffle oil. It’s such a delicious light spring dish and it’s possibly my favourite (being welsh lamb of course.

Michael Collins, Head Chef, Retro Bistrot
114-116 High St, TW11 8JB
Tel. 020 8977 2239