Let’s talk about salt. Too much of it, and food is inedible. Too little of it, and food tastes so bland it may as well be inedible! Too much salt in our diets leads to health problems, and yet we require a small amount of salt to live. Not only do we use salt in seasoning food, but it’s also one of the oldest ways of preserving food, and a lot of salt is used in industrial uses, such as manufacturing soap and detergents, and in the production of paper.
So why are we talking about salt? It’s because salt is the theme for this month’s International Incident Party. For this month’s theme, I decided to make something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: baking something in a salt crust! From what I can tell, it’s an old technique, and is commonly used to cook fish. Instead of making a crust with egg whites, I followed a recipe that made a dough with salt, flour and water. The salt crust protects the meat from the heat of the oven and helps it to roast evenly and keep most of its moisture.
I decided to go with lamb, using a shoulder that had been deboned. After briefly browning the meat, I smeared the outside of it with mashed garlic and chilli, and then wrapped it in the salt dough for roasting.
The resulting lamb was tender and moist – and yes, salty! It is very important that no additional salt goes near the meat, as it did pick up quite a bit of salt from the crust. It wasn’t too salty to eat, but I did find it a touch too salty for my tastes, so I recommend serving it with some underseasoned side dishes. One evening I added it to a salad that I hadn’t salted, and it was perfect.
It is quite a cool technique though, and there would definitely be a “wow” factor if this was presented and served at the table! To cut down on the saltiness, it would help to cover the meat with something to protect from the salt (eg leaves, cheesecloth) – something I’m keen to try out next time.
Thanks to Penny for hosting another cool party. Check out how everyone else has used salt this month:
Lamb in a salt crust
Adapted from cuisine.com.au
Boneless lamb roast (I used shoulder) ~1kg
1 large green chilli, roughly chopped and crushed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
500g cooking salt
1½ cups cold water
500g plain flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Remove all excess fat from the meat and pat it dry with paper towels. Heat up a frying pan on medium-high, and brown the lamb on all sides. Grind over some pepper, and scatter with the crushed chilli and garlic. Don’t salt.
Make the salt crust by mixing the salt, water, and herbs in a mixer with a paddle beater. Add the flour, and mix to make a smooth firm dough. Cover with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for two hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Put the lamb on top of the dough, then bring up the edges of the dough and pinch it together to seal. Make sure there are no gaps – patch them up with excess dough if necessary.
Heat oven to 200°C and roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.
To serve, cut off one end of the crust and slip the meat out. Carve the lamb into thick slices and season lightly with pepper. It will be quite salty so won’t need any additional salt.