Saffron's alternative to Christmas dinner
Saddle of Southland lamb, filled with bacon, savoy cabbage & local white truffle
Last spring I had the pleasure of harvesting with David Smith, a fellow truffle farmer, the first crop of white truffles - tartufo bianco - from his property in Wanaka. After our fruitful day's digging, Dave, who is generous to a fault, turned to me and suggested I take a jarful home. I am forever grateful. The next day I cooked this dish.
These truffles are of the same stock as the northern Italian variety, and their taste is pungent and earthy. It is interesting to marry something as elusive and extravagant as truffle with an ingredient as common and often underrated as cabbage: pairings of these sorts of foods often give us surprising results. If truffles are unavailable, mushrooms of any variety could be substituted; perhaps add a touch more rosemary and thyme also.
The saddle of lamb is a very flavoursome cut. As well as using conventional roasting methods, this dish can be cooked using the sous vide technique. The lamb saddle is boned, filled, tied and then placed into a vacuum bag, along with the seasonings and butter. The bag is then placed in a sous vide bath at 65°C for four hours. After cooking, the lamb is removed from its bag and placed in a hot pan to give it a wonderful browned finish. This slow-cooking method gives you a very tender result. A glorious accompaniment is root vegetables roasted in duck fat!
50 g butter
1∕2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
3 rashers good-quality, double-smoked bacon, finely diced
3 cups Savoy cabbage, finely sliced
very small sprig each of rosemary and thyme
sea salt to taste
a good turn of the pepper mill
2 or 3 good-sized truffles, finely sliced
1∕2 cup panko breadcrumbs, browned in the oven until very golden
1 saddle of lamb, boned, any excess fat carefully removed
Heat a sturdy frying pan, add the butter, then sauté the onion, garlic and bacon. Add the cabbage and cook for five minutes over a low heat until the cabbage has wilted, stirring constantly. Add the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and the truffle, then remove from the heat. Finally add the toasted breadcrumbs. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lay the saddle, skin side down, on the benchtop. Place the stuffing along the centre of the lamb and roll up firmly. Tie at 5 cm intervals with butcher's twine. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan and add the butter, allowing it to froth. Add the rolled saddle to the pan and brown. When the skin is golden, place the pan in the oven. Cook for about 25 minutes. Rest for five minutes somewhere warm before carving.
The Taste of Central Otago: More recipes from Arrowtown's Saffron
by Pete Gawron
Imprint: Random House NZ (Godwit)
Sunday Star Times