Caper Berry Lamb

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Caper berries are the fruit of the caper bush and an expensive speciality of Andalusia, where they are most often lightly pickled in sherry vinegar and brine. The caper bush grows wild in arid volcanic soil or, as often happens, in crumbling walls - having the same ability to grow in the most inhospitable habitats as the ubiquitous buddleia. The berry is the false fruit in which the seeds, its true fruits, are contained. The caper - as opposed to the caper berry - is the unopened bud of the caper flower. These were apparently eaten fresh in Greek and Roman times, but are now either first salt-packed or brined. The salt-packing treatment produces capers of better flavour and quality than brining, but is more expensive.

The best way to eat caper berries is uncooked and straight from the brine, as a nibble with a glass of chilled fino - a delicious combination. Come to think of it, they don’t go amiss with a large glass of neat vodka. Just don’t eat the stalks, however much you drink. Caper berries are also very good with lamb, but are added to the sauce only at the last moment to warm through and are not actually cooked as this would rather defeat their purpose.

Serve plain couscous with the lamb or make polenta croûtes as served with the Quail Salad.


  • 12 lamb cutlets
  • 40 caper berries
  • 1 onion
  • 55 g/2 oz butter
  • 55 g/2 oz flour
  • 300 ml/½ pt chicken stock
  • 300 ml/½ pt milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ nutmeg
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • couscous or polenta croûtes, to serve



Trim the lamb cutlets. Detach the caper berries from their stems and reserve. Peel and chop the onion.


Make an onion velouté sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onion in this gently until translucent. Stir in the flour and cook gently for a minute or so. Beat in the stock and milk. Add the bay leaf, season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg and simmer gently for 20 minutes, whisking from time to time.

Preheat a ridged grilling pan over a high heat, then grill the lamb cutlets for 3 minutes each side, turning three times and at opposite angles to achieve a neat cross-hatch pattern or quadrillage on each side.


Pile the couscous or polenta on a warmed serving plate and arrange the lamb around or beside them. Scatter parsley over all.

Remove the bay leaf from the sauce, add the caper berries and stir for 1 minutes. Then spoon into a sauce-boat to offer at the table.

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