Lamb steaks in a simple sauce

Lamb chops are so familiar to all of us that they are rarely considered first-rate cooking. Nothing, to my mind, could be further from the truth. The bones pared to the loin and the chops cooked on a barbecue or grill make for a classic dish, beautiful to look at, delicious to the taste. The confusion comes from the fact that few of us bother to clean the chops properly, removing — for another day — the fatty extras hanging around the bones.

Never forget, the chop bones are hanging on to the prime cut of the lamb, the loin. If you remove the bones and all attendant fat, what you will have left are tiny, but tender steaks, so simple to cook, and so satisfying.

16 lamb chops, taken from the mid-loin — Ask your butcher to select the thickest chops from several different loins, so you will have identically sized portions. Make sure the chops are cut at every second bone, forming double chops. Each person will have two of these double steaks.

6 tomatoes, skinned and chopped

into quarters; or 250g tin of tomatoes, no added salt or sugar

1 cup red wine

½ cup good quality port

¼ cup soy sauce

a little water

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 teaspoons brown sugar


black pepper


You must bone the chops, removing all the meat. This is very simple. All you need is a sharp, flexible knife. Just run the knife as close to the bone as possible. Lamb chops have a great deal of tender meat hanging about the loin, encased in fat. This is the stuff you chew on at barbecues. While you are trimming, save this for a stir-fry or some burgers.


Once the boning has been done, you should have four plump medallions, the scraps and plenty of lamb bones for a stock. Heat the oven to 250°C.


Heat a little oil in the pan until it sizzles. Add some lamb fat and some of the trimmings, and then the bones, mixing them about the pan.


Cook the bones etc. in the oven until the bones have browned — 15–20 minutes. You should stir them here and there.


Remove from the oven, drain away the fat, retaining a little for later, and pour in the wine, port and tomatoes. Stir the bottom of the pan, bringing up any sediment.


Cook on a high heat on top of the stove, reducing the mixture heavily. You will need to stir it about to make sure the tomatoes don’t stick. Add the soy, rosemary and sugar. The tomatoes will soften and disintegrate after about 10 minutes. You might need to add a little water on the way through.


Remove the bones and reduce again. You should end up with about a cup of sauce. Pour into a smaller pan, and discard the rosemary.


In the pan in which you cooked the bones, cook the lamb steaks in a little of the reserved fat. Put them into the pan one at a time, moving them about gently so they do not stick. Cook on high heat for a couple of minutes, still moving them about. When they have a thick, brown crust, turn, again moving them about to ensure they do not stick. Cook on the turned side for about 30 seconds, then put the lot into the still-hot oven.


Cook for between 5–8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the lamb. Then set aside in a warm place for several minutes. The timings will depend on the thickness of the cuts. The only constant is this: the lamb must be pink, pink, pink. Not rare, not well done. Season with salt and black pepper.


Re-heat the sauce, adding any juices from the resting steaks and swirling a little through the lamb pan to pick up any extra sediment from the lamb cooking. Serve with mashed potatoes and green vegetables like broccoli, or beans, or peas. Serve the sauce on the side.

WINE: There’s something about lamb and Coonawarra cabernet. Mildara’s master wine maker, ]ack Schultz, said to me once: ‘You have to be a real dill to make bad Coonawarra cabernet.’ He’s right. The best years of the eighties are generally the even ones — ‘80, ‘82, ‘84, ‘86, ‘88 and ‘90.

One Response to “Lamb steaks in a simple sauce”

  1. Lucy says:

    I grew up with this recipe – it was a family favorite that my dad used to make quite regularly. Over the years as the four of us grew up and moved out of home my dad would inevitably get a call asking for this recipe. He tinkered with the ingredients here and there and generally made it from memory – the version he recounted to me over the phone didn’t have port, so i’ll be glad to add that in the next time I make it!