Monday, 23 April 2012

Barnsley Chop with Baked Fennel and Anchovy

The magnificent Barnsley chop: a, sadly all too rare, cut of lamb that is butchered right across the loin to create a double chop. Seldom seen in supermarkets, or even in most butchers, when I saw a case of them at Bennett's in Leeds Kirkgate Market the lure was too much to resist.

History has it that these mega chops were first served at the King's Head Hotel to farmers, with big appetites, who were visiting the Barnsley Market. Originally the chop comprised 'the first three ribs after the shoulder, and only two such chops can be obtained from a sheep'. After being hung for a ten days it would be served with chips and locally brewed beer.

As tempting as the traditional serving suggestion sounded sounded I was still recovering from an Easter onslaught of beer and potatoes, and so decided to take the beautiful, Yorkshire-raised, lamb and serve it simply with some veg.

Wanting something a bit more exciting than peas and carrots I chanced upon some fennel while out shopping; the anise-scented bulbs working perfectly with slight gaminess of the lamb. Originally I was going to serve the fennel as a salad, very finely sliced, and dressed with a lemony anchovy dressing (the salty fish being another perfect bed-fellow for the meat). The chill in the air, however, called for something a bit more cockle-warming, so I used the same base ingredients to make fennel baked with an anchovy-scented cream.

Being a bit of an anchovyphile I really went to town with the tiny fish, ending up with a rich, wine and cream reduction spiked with a tangy, salty savouriness. If you're not as much of a fan then reduce the number you use, or miss them out altogether, although even one or two fillets will add a wonderful umami richness to the finished dish.
Working with such strong flavours I wanted to keep the fennel quite simple, so I didn't mess around with things too much. You could try a good grating of Parmesan and some breadcrumbs sprinkled on top for a more substantial main dish, or use a splash of Pastis in the braising liquid for a stronger anise flavour punch.
Barnsley Chop with Baked Fennel and Anchovy
2 Barnsley chops (or use 4 lamb loin chops)
2 bulbs of fennel
2-4 anchovy fillets
150ml vegetable stock
150ml double cream
100ml white wine or pastis (optional)
Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 180c
Take the the chops out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Slice the fennel lenghthways into rounds the thickness of a pound coin and lay in a shallow, oven proof dish.
Add stock, cream and wine to the dish (the liquid should cover about half the fennel). 
Tear anchovy fillets in half and tuck in and around fennel, season with black pepper.
Bake for about an hour, checking, and gently stirring, until the liquid has reduced and fennel is soft (if it is browning too quickly cover top with foil). The anchovies should melt into the braising liquid.
Pre heat a frying pan, season chops and cook until well browned on both sides.
Place chops in a baking dish and finish cooking in the oven (about 8/10 minutes for medium rare/ medium).

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