Su Filindeu in Mutton Broth with Pecorino and Lamb Neck
To say this filindeu pasta recipe is a labour of love is a massive understatement. Your first challenge is to get your hands on some su filindeu. That's not going to be easy because only a handful of people in a remote part of Sardinia know the secret to making it.
Get your credit card ready because this stuff is expensive.
The next challenge is sourcing the meat. Mutton isn’t that popular in the UK so you'll need to find a good halal butcher who can supply you with diced mutton. You can just use lamb instead, but your broth will lack the slightly gamey taste which is a hallmark of older sheep.
Incorporating extra meat into the dish is not traditional, but when we've gone to this much effort getting hold of ingredients, we really want this recipe to impress our guests. As for getting hold of a lamb neck fillet, you may need to look online, although in truth any of the "tough cuts" that need long, slow cooking such as shoulder, shank and leg will be just as good.
Your final quest is to source fresh Pecorino. It's completely different to the hard, aged stuff that you find in supermarkets. For utter authenticity, here we're using fresh Pecorino Sardo (i.e. from Sardinia) which has a strong but enjoyably sharp taste.
We favour using "closed" environments when cooking tough cuts of meat (for which we use sous vide) or making stocks and broths (for which we use a pressure cooker). Both keep evaporation to a minimum which enables cooks to retain the flavours that would normally be lost into the atmosphere.
For the sake of regular home cooks though, the instructions below are designed for more everyday kitchen equipment.
For the lamb neck fillet
Start by sprinkling a little salt and pepper over the lamb and mash all the other ingredients into a paste. Put the meat and marinade into a zip-lock bag and marinate overnight.
To cook, submerge the meat in a flavourful liquid (i.e. wine, stock etc.) and simmer as gently as possible until the meat is tender and falling apart. This could take anywhere from 1-2 hours.
Shred the lamb neck and refrigerate until needed.
For the mutton broth
Note: As a rule, broths are made with meat, stocks are made with bones. If you can only get hold of bone-in mutton, remove the meat, and save the bones for making stock.
Our number one aim here is to create a broth that has oodles of body and flavour whilst also being crystal clear. That's not to say it won't have colour, but su filindeu is the star of the show in this dish and we want to be able to see it in its full glory.
Chop the mutton into pea-sized chunks (or even better, coarsely grind it if you have the equipment). Usually, we would recommend browning the meat to unlock all the complex flavours that result, but for this dish we want a light-coloured broth. (Caramelised meat provides a deep-brown colour broth which is sought after in some settings; just not this one.)
Put the diced mutton in a saucepan of cold water, bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and scoop off any fat or impurities that rise to the surface. Drain, clean the saucepan and recharge with fresh water.
Dice the onion, carrot, and celery into pea-size chunks, slice the garlic and add to your pan along with the herbs and aromatics.
Simmer as gently as humanly possible for 2-3 hours. You don't need to constantly babysit it but do try and regularly scoop off any impurities that rise to the surface.
Strain the broth through a sieve to take out the chunky ingredients, then again through cheesecloth to take out the smaller particles.
Stop here and you've got the basis of an epic dinner.
Optional step: clarify your broth into a consommé
Culinary wizard Dave Arnold once described his need to clarify liquids as a “sickness” and it’s one we share. There’s just something quite satisfying about taking a murky sauce or liquid and making it crystal clear.
To clarify a broth, you'll need to make a raft. This is essentially a high-protein liquid that attracts the suspended solids in your broth and draws them to the surface, allowing you to scoop them off and uncover a crystal-clear consommé underneath.
The easiest way is to simply whisk some egg whites with your broth and gently heat it until the egg whites float to the surface. That works well, but those suspended solids are full of flavour, so you'll basically be diluting the taste of the consommé by getting rid of them. The solution is to make a flavourful raft to counteract any flavour loss. This requires more work and more expense, which probably explains why you hardly ever see consommés on restaurant menus these days.
For the raft
Using a meat grinder (or a food processor,) grind all the ingredients into a chunky mash, but stop before it becomes a puree.
Whisk the chilled raft with your chilled broth and heat over a medium-low heat, stirring every few minutes until it reaches a very gentle simmer. Do not let it boil.
Wait for the raft to float to the surface (this could take 20-30 minutes), poke a 5cm hole in the middle of the raft and allow the pan to remain at a very gentle simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and gently scoop off and discard the raft. Carefully ladle the liquid through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a clean bowl.
Now's a good time to text your foodie mates and tell them that you have, quite legitimately, made your first consommé.
All you need to do now is season to taste with salt. As a general guide, we weigh the amount of consommé and add 0.75% of its weight in salt.
Right, let's eat...
|Su filindeu pasta
|Lamb neck fillet
Remove the lamb and broth from the fridge, break the pasta into chunky pieces and chop the cheese into die sizes pieces.
Bring the broth to a simmer and add the pasta and lamb. Cook until the pasta is al dente, and the lamb is warmed through, about 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the Pecorino and serve in warmed bowls.
Savour every mouthful in the knowledge that you are one of the few people on the planet who has ever eaten, and quite possibly ever will eat, this legendary dish.