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Eat To Live

Guilt-free lamb with lean cuts

Lamb lovers, do not despair. You can eat your favourite meat and still keep to a healthy diet.

The secret is to choose a healthy cut of the meat and employ the right cooking method.

White meat from the chicken breast has long been the meat of choice for careful eaters, followed by the fillet of pork and beef, also known as the tenderloin, which are both low in fat and, yes, flavourful.

Avoid lamb, a fatty meat, say the naysayers. I listened to them and broke the rule only occasionally and with a huge sense of guilt.

But the craving lingered. Then, I discovered a cut called the lamb backstrap which, together with the fillet, are two sides of the loin chop.

The grilled meat is served with bitter salad leaves to balance out the sweetness of the meat.
The grilled meat is served with bitter salad leaves to balance out the sweetness of the meat. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

The lamb backstrap is wider than the fillet but just as lean. It is also full of flavour; both are premium cuts that are very sweet and tender.

However, it is hard to find it on the shelves, and you probably have to buy it from a butcher. I bought mine at a farmers' market in Perth and lugged the frozen vacuum- packed meat back here.

If you find it difficult to source, the lamb fillet would do as well.

As for the cooking method, grilling is good for these meats, as the fat literally drips away. Be careful not to overcook the meat as it can turn dry and tough.

The meat in this recipe was marinated overnight in a char siu marinade. This grilled meat is lovely, served on a bed of salad leaves. I added bitter salad leaves to balance out the sweetness of the meat.

This salad is ideal for someone with a carbo-watching habit, especially if eaten with a filling, flavoursome soup and thickened with beans, instead of rice or bread.

While satisfying cravings is important, moderation is the key. So I would watch portion sizes when eating less than desirable foods.

Slicing thin pieces of meat to lay on a salad is a good way of satisfying a meat craving while watching your diet.

I love lamb, but have avoided it due to the fatty nature of the meat. But with this cut, I can eat it now and then.

Besides, what is there not to love about char siu, especially if it is made with lamb.

•Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.


LAMB CHAR SIU SALAD

INGREDIENTS

2 tbs dark soya sauce

1 tbs light soya sauce

1 tbs Chinese rice wine

2 tbs honey

1/2tsp Chinese five-spice powder (optional)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbs peanut oil

2 lamb fillets or lamb backstrap, left whole (about 500 g)

1 punnet baby kale leaves or more

1 punnet rocket leaves or more

4 tomatoes, halved

1 tbs olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to dress

METHOD

• Place the soya sauces, rice wine, honey, five-spice powder and oil in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Set aside 1/4 cup of the mixture.

• Cover the lamb pieces with the remaining marinade.

• Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to 24 hours. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. • Remove lamb from the marinade and pat dry.

• Place meat on the grill, turning the lamb halfway through, for about 10 minutes or until the lamb is deeply caramelised.

• Brush the lamb with the reserved marinade and set aside to rest. After 10 minutes, slice thinly.

• Place salad leaves and halved tomatoes in a bowl, add olive oil, juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and toss.

• Place dressed salad on a plate and lay out lamb slices by the side.

SERVES FOUR TO SIX


Choose leanest part of the meat from the loin area

Lamb contains more iron than chicken (1.63mg per 100g vs 0.37mg per 100g).

Iron helps to ensure oxygen flow throughout our body, which prevents us from having anaemia.

Lamb is a good source of selenium and zinc, which are important for immunity.

It is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, which is important for metabolic functions.

Lamb contains a higher amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) when compared to beef.

CLA has various health claims, including helping to reduce one's blood pressure and body fat, but more studies have to be done to confirm these claims.

It is important to buy the healthiest parts of the animal. Different parts contain different amounts of fats.

The healthiest and leanest parts of the meat are those in the loin area. For example, the tenderloin, sirloin and midloin. This applies to lamb and beef.

Choose lean meat and limit your intake of red meats to one palm size (3oz) per portion.

The same amount of lamb has more calories and fat content when compared with beef and chicken.

Lean lamb tenderloin (100g)

Calories: 116kcal

Fat: 3.8g

Lean beef sirloin (100g)

Calories: 83.3kcal

Fat: 2g

Lean skinless chicken breast (100g)

Calories: 65kcal

Fat: 1g

This recipe contains honey, which is similar to sugar. They both provide 4kcal per gram. Honey does not necessarily contain fewer calories than sugar. It depends on the quantities used. The benefit of using honey is that it has anti-bacterial properties.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serve: 195g)

Energy: 199kcal

Protein: 21.5g

Total fat: 7.1g

Saturated fat: 2.3g

Dietary fibre: 1.4g

Carbohydrate: 13.2g

Cholesterol: 61.7mg

Sodium: 411.6mg

Bibi Chia

Principal dietitian, Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Guilt-free lamb with lean cuts'. Print Edition | Subscribe