Tucking into some boiled mutton last week simply gave me more of a taste for lamb and made me determined to try this traditional Irish recipe for Easter.
A lamb ciste* (pronounced with a hard C) is the biggest festival of meat I’ve seen in a long time and I think we all know I am pure carnivore these days. You layer lamb chops and lamb kidneys with lamb mince and then top it all with a topping of suet pastry and put your hands over the eyes of any passing vegetarians just in case.
I have never heard of the dish before stumbling across it on a random online search for slow cooked dishes and I have no idea if it’s actually that traditional or Irish, but I can tell you that it’s utterly brilliant in every single way.
I used shoulder chops, made the mince rich with a gravy using stock from the boiled mutton and then baked it all in the oven to give that perfect chewy lightness that only suet can give pastry. I served it as Easter lunch and it was fantastic and very easy to make in advance.
Lamb Ciste (serves 6)
- 8 lamb shoulder or saddle chops
- 750g lamb mince
- 3 lamb’s kidneys (optional)
- 2 carrots, diced
- 150g celeriac or 3 sticks celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced (if not fodmapping)
- 150g swede, diced (turnip for our Scottish and Norn Iron chums)
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- 200ml lamb stock
- 3 anchovies
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper
- 450g plain flour
- 250g suet (not the ‘veggie’ stuff)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- salt and pepper
- 250ml milk
I made the meat part of this the night before and the suet pastry just before serving as it works best freshly made. It made for a really easy and impressive Sunday lunch which required little effort beyond opening a bottle of something fizzy while it cooked.
Season the lamb chops well and seal in a hot frying pan for about 3 minutes each side. Rest in the dish you intend to serve the ciste in.
Seal the lamb mince in the same frying pan you used for the chops. You might need to do it in two batches to stop it from boiling in its own fat instead of sizzling.
Once it’s about halfway cooked, drain the fat off and then put all the lamb mince together in the same pan and scatter in the tablespoons of plain flour, the anchovies and Worcestershire sauce. Add the lamb stock and allow the mince to thicken into the gravy. Season well.
Tip it all into a bowl and pour the reserved fat back into the frying pan and soften the diced vegetables in it for about 15 minutes. Add the lamb to them all and mix well. Take off the heat
Core the white part out of the kidneys and cut each one into 4 pieces and stir through the lamb mince mix. Spread the mince mix over the top of the lamb chops and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight if needed.
Allow the meat to come back to room temperature next day and allow the oven to heat to 180C. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl along with the salt and pepper, mustard and suet and baking powder. Add the milk half at a time and bring the dough together until it just comes together cleanly.
Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 3/4 inch thick and big enough to roughly cover the dish you are using. Drape over the dish and pull any overhanging bits off and patch them onto any gaps. Brush it all with a bit of milk.
Bake for 45 minutes and then turn the heat to 200C for ten minutes to give the top a golden sheen. Serve immediately. Your lamb chops should still be slightly pink if they are quite thick but the mince and kidneys will be smooth and rich.
I served mine with roast potatoes and parsnips but honestly I think some peas or kale would be more apt as it’s a very rich dish. We had generous lunch portions and I had three decent goes at leftovers too. I might have finally reached my lamb limit (for this week at least) but my mince love is back in action for sure!