Is British food what it is today due to the influence of the French? James presents salade Lyonnaise - a very French iteration of bacon and eggs!
The French famously love to talk about how revolting British food is. Even still, in an age where few would dispute Britain’s dominance over France
in the kitchen, you ask most French people what they think of food in Britain and they’ll wrinkle their nose and mumble something about roast beef and tea.
Never mind that les rosbifs
was originally intended as a compliment (we were – are – the bomb at roasting meat); never mind that food in this country has been steadily and thrillingly improving for several decades; never mind that the (admittedly capricious) World’s 50 Best
put two British and zero French restaurants in its top 10 – we remain tarred by the same Harvester-shaped brush.
Still, perceived wisdom maintains that British food is what it is today because of France’s historical influence, techniques, flair and joie,
and we should give them that much. It’s all they have left, poor loves.
A salade Lyonnaise is a very French iteration of bacon and eggs, a quiche Lorraine for the dieter. This is essentially that salad, but it uses lamb breast, something you can scoop up at your butcher for pennies, and a slow-poached egg yolk. If these two elements are too time consuming then just use bacon and a poached egg. But then you’d just have a Lyonnais salad, and where’s the fun in that?
(The shoots you can see are hop shoots that we got from our forager, ‘Big’ Mike. If you’re London based, send him an email
and he’ll get you all sorts of lovely wild herbs.)
Salad of Cured Lamb Breast with a Slow-poached Egg Yolk
For the lamb breast (recipe from Roberta’s)
500g lamb breast
100g Maldon salt (I used smoked)
50g dark brown sugar
A few crushed garlic cloves
For the dressing
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, lightly squished
Salt and pepper
For the croutons
A few chunks of stale sourdough
You’ll also need
1 egg per person
To cure the lamb, mix the salt, sugar, garlic, thyme and black pepper and spread on a baking tray. Turn the lamb breast in this and rub the mixture in thoroughly, coating well, then shake off the excess. Sit on another tray, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for 3 days.
Rinse off the salt and soak the lamb in cold water for an hour, then remove and pat dry. Sit on a rack in the fridge for a day, loosely covered, until completely dry. Cut into lardons and set aside until needed.
To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a jar and shake to emulsify. Set aside.
For the eggs – you can either poach them as normal before serving, but more fun is the David Chang method. Get a pan of water over a medium heat, and put a rack in the bottom to stop the eggs touching the base. Put in a thermometer and get the water to 64C. Carefully drop in the eggs and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, keeping an eye on the temperature. It wants to stay at 64C, or as close as possible. I used an immersion circulator
, a worthwhile purchase if you do a lot of cooking for big numbers.
Meanwhile, fry the lamb lardons in a drop of oil until crisp, then transfer to a bowl and keep warm in a low oven. Fry the croutons in the lamb fat and keep warm also.
To serve, arrange some salad leaves on a plate and dress generously. Scatter over the lamb bacon and the croutons. Put a sieve over a bowl and break in an egg. This gets rid of the thin white. Scoop the yolk out and pop on the salad. Repeat with the others, and serve.
Inspired? For more lamb recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.