Neck fillet of lamb is not always easy to find. Your butcher may prefer to leave the cut as an integral part of the shoulder joint, rather than cutting it out and ‘spoiling’ the shoulder. It is therefore often easier to find in a supermarket, or from a butcher that sells imported lamb neck fillets.
It should be an inexpensive cut. It is fattier than other fillets and has some sinew running through it, but it is delicious nonetheless.
Serve as a starter, or a light main with a fennel and orange salad with cocoa nibs or – for a more substantial meal – with braised Puy lentils and stir-fried cherry tomatoes.
2 x 250g neck fillets of lamb
30g fennel fronds, or flat-leaf parsley leaves
5 garlic cloves
1 small red chilli, deseeded
2 heaped tbs fennel seeds
2tsp sea salt flakes
2tsp mixed peppercorns
Extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Trim the lamb fillets of fat, sinew or skin, shaping the meat into as even a sausage shape as possible. Chop the fennel or parsley, garlic and chilli together finely and put in a bowl. Crush the fennel seeds, salt and peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, then add to the chopped ingredients. Lay a piece of clingfilm on a chopping board and tip half of this fennel mixture in the centre, creating a rectangle the length and circumference of the first neck of lamb. Roll a lamb fillet in it, pressing until the meat is well covered, then roll it up in the clingfilm (plastic wrap) and freeze for two hours. Repeat with the other neck fillet and chopped ingredients.
When ready to serve, heat a frying pan large enough to contain both neck fillets over a medium high heat until very hot. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the base of the pan and add the neck fillets. Fry, turning until golden all over. This should take five minutes for rare, 10 minutes for medium or 15 for well-done. (Reduce the heat to medium if cooking for longer than five minutes.) Try not to over-cook the lamb, whatever your preference; remember that the lemon juice you add upon serving will further ‘cook’ the meat. Meanwhile, put a serving dish and plates in a warm oven.
Transfer the meat to a chopping board and slice. Arrange on plates and squeeze lemon juice over it all, or serve the lemon wedges on the side of the plates for each person to help themselves. Scatter any of the lamb’s crust from the pan, which may have fallen off the meat, over the slices. Serve on warmed plates.
Recipe taken from Raw and Rare
Photography by Kevin Summers