Stir-fried lamb fillets

Tiny lamb fillets are a treasure, too often forgotten in the search for legs and loins and chops. They’re easy to prepare, quick to cook, and there’s absolutely no waste.

One of the best cuts of lamb, especially for those of us looking for a great feed with a minimum of fuss, is the tiny tenderloin usually sold as ‘lamb fillets’. These are about 20 centimetres long and 3 centimetres thick, and sit neatly at the bottom of the full-ribbed saddle of the lamb. If you ever buy a whole side of lamb you will see these tiny fillets clinging to the loin. As always with these tender cuts, the thing to do is cook quickly, and serve with a minimum of extras. From there, you can start experimenting any way you like.

Make sure the fillets you buy are from lamb, and are not the underfillets of mutton. Most butchers get these special cuts from boning rooms. Mutton fillets are still very tender, but are much more, shall we say, aromatic in their flavour, representing several more years on the hoof and the chew. How would you know the difference? They’re much bigger, and redder. If in doubt, ask your butcher.

If you have a particuarly good relationship with your butcher, you might ask him to save the fillets from his own lambs each week. They freeze wonderfully well. The fillets, not the butcher.

Lamb fillets at a barbecue should be treated like sausages, but cooked about a third as long. Just toss them on the grill, leave for a minute or so, turn, leave for 30 seconds, and set aside in a warm place for a minute. That’s it. Serve with your trusty white sliced bread: without the tomato sauce!

1 small leek or 1/2 large leek chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, sliced finely

1 chilli, sliced finely

a little olive oil

1 dessertspoon soy sauce

1 dessertspoon home-made tomato paste (less if canned)

handful of basil leaves or rosemary

1/2 kg lamb fillets, chopped into chunks


This is not the usual hard-frying wok dish. It’s more a stewing dish, using the volume of the wok to bring all the flavours together. The lamb chunks will not be crusty, as they might be on a grill or in a hot pan, but soft, taking in a lot of the flavours. It’s still a very quick dish to cook.


Cook the leek, garlic and chilli in a little olive oil, stirring about. Keep the heat at a medium level. Continue cooking until the leek has softened.


Add the soy sauce, tomato paste and basil, and stir about until well mixed with the leeks. (I used tomato paste we had made ourselves, giving the dish a fresher middle palate.However, the difference, particularly with the soy about, is not that noticeable – particularly if you haven’t tasted the alternative.)


Add the lamb chunks, and stir about. Reduce the heat, and allow the mix to bubble away for a few minutes. The lamb should be served just pink, quite underdone, but that is up to you. If you like it well done, so be it. It will still be very tender. Just be sure that not all the moisture – from leeks, from tomato, from soy, and from the lamb – disappears. When the lamb is done, the dish is done. Serve with steamed rice or simple pasta.

You could try a spicy young shiraz here. Go for Central Victoria or Coonawarra. Some brands might still be labelled Hermitage.