I was very excited when Laurie from Hawk Hill Farm contacted me. She raises heritage breeds, which include Tunis sheep. They put fat on their tails and she had read of my search in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes for fat-tailed lamb. Generously she sent me tails from lambs that were pastured and slaughtered at 6 months.
You can see that they, like all tails, have the central bone surrounded by meat and a lot of fat. Well I thought it was a lot of fat, until I read Charles Perry's guest post on Anissa Helou's blog. Anissa, I and Mark from Belly to Bacon have been discussing fat tailed lamb via Twitter. I admit I thought Twitter a waste of time, but it has proved me wrong. There are lots of generous food people out there with answers to your questions. It is immediate and fun. It is just finding the right people to follow. Mark cooked his lamb tails before me, read his blog post. His tails resembled mine, but not the ones Anissa was familiar with from her travels in the Middle East. You can see from her blog they make ours look thin and puny. However if Laurie's lambs were older I am sure they would have put on even more fat on their tails.
The tails were frozen, so I had time to think about how i would cook them. Like Mark I decided to make qawarma. After reading his experience I used my duck rillettes recipe from FAT as a starting point. I took half the tails, about 500g / 17 1/2 ounces, and cut them into sections. It is quite easy to cut between the joints of the tail, then I marinated them overnight in a mixture of garlic, salt, pepper, allspice, thyme, a large piece of lemon zest and something very non-traditional, white wine.
Next day, I put everything in a heavy casserole, and then in a 120C / 250F oven. After 4 hours, much of the fat was rendered and the rest was golden brown. Instead of adding minced lamb, I poured off the rendered fat to cook with and let the pieces of fat and meat cool slightly. Then I removed the bones and chopped the meat and fat together.
I seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne, then added about 1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I packed the mixture into a glass bowl, I had about 250ml / 1 cup and sealed it with a film of that lovely lamb fat I'd saved.
My version of qawarma is sitting in my fridge maturing. My experience of rillettes is that they are always better after a few days, as the flavours blend better. So how to eat it? While lamb tail fat is softer than the internal lamb fat, it is more saturated than duck fat and firmer at room temperature. I am thinking of following Mark's lead and warming it up and serving it with wildly out of season favas. I have some fabulous sheep's milk yoghurt from Ewenity so I won't be making my own, I let you know how it tastes.