We rarely buy meat, and when we do, we buy locally slaughtered meat. We focus on food producers whose animals have minimal supplementation wherever possible. These are often Hebridean sheep, sheep that have grazed on the hill, or on off-shore islands. When I say ‘lamb’ we are really talking about hoggets, or mutton. This is darker meat with a stronger, more delicious flavour than New Zealand lamb. It is firmer, and requires different cooking techniques.
I have friends in Shetland, and they face a similar choice. Local meat requires a specific approach if it is to be enjoyed at its best. Home-kill cuts are not boned, and many of my recipe books start with ‘ask the butcher to bone…’ so I stop right there.
This weekend past, I dived again into James and Tom Morton’s book, Shetland. Shetland has similar issues – small weather-proof animals producing well-flavoured meat. They came up with the simplest recipe yet for cooking a shoulder of local lamb. It has features of all recipes that have worked well for me, but pared right back to the basics, ready for experimentation down the line. I recommend you buy the book for more classics.
- 1 shoulder of local lamb
- Vegetable oil, for example olive oil
- Herbs, such as thyme, rosemary
- Set the oven to high – around 240C, and let it heat up fully.
- Coat the meat with a sparing amount of oil, and season well with salt, and scatter with herbs. Place it in a well-fitting roasting dish.
- Roast the meat for 30 minutes, to produce a crust, and then turn the heat down to 150C and add a glass of water.
- Continue to cook at the lower temperature for a further 3 hours, cover with foil if it is looking a little too crispy.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes or more before serving.
Of course, you could add garlic and white wine, or a shot of brandy. You could add rose-water, and rub the meat with ras-el-hanout. However, this was splendid as it came.