Slow-Braised Neck Of Lamb With Mélange Viande, Chantenay Carrots, Pearl Onions And Roasted Maris Pipers

This recipe is a showcase for the spice mixture, mélange viande. The other ingredients - lamb, carrot, onion and potato - are almost incidental to the recipe. Try the mixture with other meats and with fish or cheese. The summery, flowery perfume of the spice mix is exquisite and unforgetable.

Ingredients (4 portions)

2 lamb neck fillets
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
4 tbsp melange viande spice mixture
30g Butter
30g Plain flour
24 Chantennay carrots
1 large onion, roughly diced
2l lamb stock
8 silverskin pearl onions
2 Maris Piper potatoes*
Vegetable oil
Duck or goose fat
Black pepper

* Maris Piper is the best roasting potato, but an alternative floury potato can be used.


I can't help you here. Cooking this recipe depends on being able to track down some mélange viande, which translates literally as "meat mixture" but more correctly as "a fantastic collision of flowery spices ideal for use in flavouring meats".

This is a mixture of Sichuan pepper, tarragon, parsley, pink peppercorns, niora peppers, rosemary, sumac, turmeric, herbes de Provence, capsicum, rosebuds, yellow and black mustard.

As I said when linking this spice mixture to the opening car crash scene in Jean-Luc Godard's film "Weekend", it's not a blend - it's a flowery, country-road, weekend traffic jam of spices piled into eachother in a surreal fantasy.
With mélange viande your senses are attacked simultaneously with the fragrant perfumes of country spices, the contrasting textures of rosebuds, sumac berries, rosemary needles and peppercorns and the diverse colours of gay traffic lights: green, amber, pink and red.
Ok, so start with your lamb neck fillets. A good marbling of fat is essential for extra flavour. The first thing you need to do is bring the lamb stock to the boil with the melange in it. This will allow the flavours to infuse.
Melt the sugar in a large skillet and allow a light caramel to form. Season your lamb and caramelise in the hot pan until evenly coloured, as per the picture right.

Remove from the pan and set aside.
These are the perfect carrots for a stew. Because of their size you won't need to cut them into pieces, so they can keep the natural shape that Mother Nature gave them.
Fry the onions in vegetable oil in the same pan you caramelised the meat in. Then deglace all of the meaty flavours with the stock - don't be shy, give the pan a good scrape. Place the lamb back into the pan and allow to braise for an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Don't peel the carrots, scrub them clean and you'll retain much more nutrients. Peel the potatoes and keep them in cold water until they're ready for roasting. Place a roasting tray in a hot oven (or on the stove) and allow to get very hot. When you're ready to get the spuds on, pour the duck or goose fat onto the roasting tray and thoroughly coat the surface. Dry the potatoes thoroughly and pop them onto the tray, you should get a nice loud sizzle. Toss them around so they're evenly coated with the fat and roast until crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Add the carrots to the roasting dish roughly 20 minutes before the potatoes are done.
When the hour is up, remove the meat from the skillet and set to one side. Make a roux with the flour and butter and cook to the blonde stage (a few minutes, stirring constantly). Strain the braising liquour and gradually add to the roux while again constantly stirring. Keep adding the stock until you reach a sauce consistency, then add a little more to account for thickening during the cooking out of the flour. This is now a velouté (no, not the fake kind that some chefs masquerade as veloutés. A real one). So place the lamb necks back into the sauce, cover with a cartouche (greasproof paper cut into a circle to match the diameter of the pan and buttered) and cook on a low heat for about 20-25 minutes.
I chose to finish the dish with some silverskin onions, which add great texture as well as a sour note from the vinegar they're pickled in. Simply run through the sauce a few minutes from serving to keep the crunchy texture.
Voila! Serve piping hot and eat with glee.