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.
We have made this using left-overs from roast lamb, but the original recipe came from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Curry Easy’. The book is very easy to use, the recipes easy and delicious and fresh. The resulting curry would easily serve 6.
- 6 tbsp organic vegetable oil
- 8 cardamom pods
- 1 x 10cm cinnamon stick
- 8 whole cloves
- 1 tsp whole cumin
- 1 tsp whole fennel
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 900g diced local lamb (or goat)
- 300ml natural organic yoghurt (2x150ml)
- 2 tbsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Heat the oil in a large oven-proof pan and set over a medium heat. Once it is hot, add the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon,cloves, cumin and fennel) and give them a stir before adding the chopped onions, and fry until the onion is beginning to brown.
- Add all of the other ingredients, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with foil and then the lid to seal, and then bake in the oven for 1 1/4 hours until the meat is tender.
- Uncover, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the meat is drier and slightly browned. Stir occasionally to disperse any liquid evenly.
Serve with a vegetable dish and pita breads.
I love having my girls home. One of them cooked this for us this evening. We used a shoulder of mutton, but the original recipe calls for 4 lamb shanks.
- 1 shoulder of mutton, or 4 lamb shanks (local, of course)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 small dried hot red chilli
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large or 4 small carrots, chopped
- 6 sticks of celery, chopped
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 170ml dry white wine
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 2 tins of organic chopped tomatoes
- A bunch of parsley, chopped
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper
- In a pestle and mortar, crush the coriander seeds with the chilli and dried herbs.
- Put the herbs, spices and mutton in a bag together, and coat the lamb, squeezing well. Add the flour to the bag as well.
- Heat a casserole dish, add the oil, brown the meat, then set this aside.
- Add the chopped vegetables to the pan with a pinch of salt, and cook slowly until the onion and celery is soft.
- Add the vinegar, and start to reduce to a syrupy consistency
- Add the wine and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the anchovies and tomatoes, and bring back to a simmer again.
- Add the lamb back to the pan, bring to the boil, cover and then cook in a moderate oven 160C for a couple of hours. Remove the lid and cook for another half an hour.
- Once the meat is tender, garnish with chopped herbs, and serve with mashed potatoes, or possibly polenta.
Here’s a twist on local ingredients. It looked a little pale and would have been improved with the addition of green beans and carrots.
- 900g lamb, diced
- 4 tbsp veg oil
- 2x7cm cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 10 cloves
- 10 cardamom pods
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 20 curry leaves (or 10 bay leaves)
- 2 tsps grated fresh ginger
- 1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 turnip, peeled and diced
- you could add chopped carrots and green beans
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 can coconut milk
- Put the oil in a large heavy pan, and set over a medium heat. When it is hot, add the cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom, and let them sizzle for a few seconds.
- Add the onion, and continue frying until it starts to turn light brown.
- Add curry leaves and ginger, and after another minute, add the lamb and stir for a few minutes.
- Add 1 litre of water bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes
- Add the potatoes and vegetables, salt and cayenne pepper, and simmer for a further 30 minutes, until the meat is tender.
- Add the coconut milk, and thicken sauce to taste by squishing the potatoes a bit.
We just had this as it came. Rice or bread would be good, but we didn’t bother.
I’ve no idea if I make this soup the best way, but this is how I do it. Scotch broth involves a lot of chopping. If I get a lamb neck, this is what I make. I adjust the quantities depending on what is available
- Lamb or mutton neck, around 900g, trimmed of any surplus fat.
- 500g leeks, one left whole, the rest chopped finely
- 50g pearl barley
- 250g carrots, peeled and chopped finely
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 1 turnip, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- sprig of thyme
- a bayleaf
- finely chopped cabbage
- In a large stock pan, make the basick stock for the soup as follows: Put the lamb neck, the whole leek, carrot, chopped onions, barley, turnip, black pepper and bayleaf into the pan, and cover with water. Bring to the boil slowly and simmer for two hours or more, until the meat is well cooked and easy to remove from the lamb neck.
- Fish out the whole leek and the lamb neck. When the lamb neck is cool enough, get as much meat off it as possible, chop it and return to the soup, along with the chopped leeks and shredded cabbage. Season the soup with salt. (This would be a good point to freeze any for later)
- Bring back to the boil, and simmer gently for a further ten minutes or so before serving. The cabbage and the leeks should still be slightly crunchy.
- Serve with bread, oatcakes or potatoes.