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Written by Ashley Hall on August 16th, 2017

THE GREAT SHOULDER CHOP CHALLENGE

When we set the challenge of making dinner this week with a cut that we haven’t used before, I think the majority of my team were shocked that I chose lamb shoulder chops. I’ve tried cheeks, shin, skirt, ribs, shanks and rack but the humble lamb chop and I? Well we’ve never been introduced. So being the type that loves a good challenge, I decided not only to cook with lamb chops but to rebel against what I would normally do and cook them quickly rather than slowly in my casserole dish. I love cooking secondary cuts slowly as there’s no room for error and I’m guaranteed tender, flavourful meals every time. And even though the prep time of slow cooker meals usually isn’t long, sometimes the cook time just isn’t achievable. So, the added challenge for me was to try something that may inspire me to utilise cheaper cuts without having to turn to the slow cooker.

I bought my three lamb chops, roughly $7 for three large chops (two for my husband, one for me) and set about researching the best way to cook them quickly, for a meal that delivers on both price and convenience. I settled on a Indian-inspired mixture of spices and heated my pan as I prepared the rub. The mixture was made using spices I already had in the cupboard – cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, chilli, turmeric and a sprinkle of nutmeg and before rubbing into the lamb, I coated both sides in a splash of oil. That was all it took before adding the chops to the hot pan to cook for four minutes on each side. While that was going on, I chopped up a variety of green vege I had leftover in the fridge – spinach, bok choy and broccoli and quickly stir-fried the lot in a dash of oil and more cumin seeds.

After the chops were cooked, I rested them for five minutes before serving alongside the vege to my husband who looked extremely pleased, if a little shocked. I’ve never really enjoyed the meat and three vege meal model and as such if I’m in the kitchen, something in a bowl and / or sauce is more likely to be coming out of it.

And if I’m being totally honest, before the taste test, I still wasn’t totally convinced. Sure, it looked delicious but it took me a grand total of 12 minutes to put together and a further five minutes to rest; surely that wasn’t enough time spent in the kitchen or in the oven to be something to write a blog about. But hand on heart, I was pleasantly surprised. The lamb had absorbed so much of the spice mix and the quick cook time coupled with the resting resulted in tender, just pink lamb that was really juicy. I really enjoyed the flavour and texture of the lamb and felt like I was experiencing an exceptional piece of meat that even though took on the flavour of the spice mix, wasn’t masked by other ingredients or a sauce. I finished the entire plate feeling full but still light; at the end of the day what better meal than a good serving of protein and plenty of fresh, leafy greens?

The key thing for me out of this whole experience would be, finding out that lamb shoulder chops which I viewed simply as another slow cook cut option, are actually incredibly versatile and truth be told, for me were just as good quickly pan seared as they would be in an Indian curry or a French Navarin. Looking ahead to my next shop, I won’t hesitate or be bound by the week’s activities to pick up a pack of lamb chops as I know I can choose from a raft of options when it comes to cooking them. Although, given the reaction from my husband I think it’s fair to say they’ll be cooked in the pan the next few times – the extra time I had to finish off my book last night wasn’t bad either!

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