Out of the home nations, Northern Ireland consumes the least lamb

Undated Handout Photo of a traditional lamb meatball tagine. See PA Feature TRAVEL Morocco. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Morocco.

Undated Handout Photo of a traditional lamb meatball tagine. See PA Feature TRAVEL Morocco. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Morocco.

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Love Lamb Week runs from the 1st to the 7th of September. It was started last year by Cumbrian based sheep farmer, Rachel Lumley to highlight how tasty, versatile and easy lamb is to cook with.

Out of the home nations Northern Ireland consumes the least amount of lamb with the Republic of Ireland eating the most.

According to Sperrin based sheep farmer Ian Buchanan, lamb is the most natural of foods. We eat imported, and often tasteless chicken regularly and ignore the delicious meat on our door step. One of the aims of Love Lamb week is to encourage us to use lamb as an everyday meat rather than saving it for the occasional Sunday roast. For years lamb on menus consisted of lamb cutlets or noisettes of lamb. Noisettes, meaning “nut” literally, were a rolled piece of boned out best end. They would be sautéed and finished with stock, some red currant jelly and a bit of rosemary. Nothing wrong with it in principle but I’ve had some very fatty, undercooked versions in my time, and therein lies the rub. Most people tell me they don’t like the lamb because they’re put off by the fat and I see their point. There is nothing worse than slightly jellified lamb fat on a cutlet. Rump of lamb is becoming a popular cut. It’s the mini roast at the end of the leg and when handled properly is beautiful. Season the rump with salt and place in a medium hot pan with a little oil. Gently cook to render the fat down – this will take about 15 minutes. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and roast in the oven for 10 minutes ( longer if you want it well done). Rest the meat and slice for a perfectly golden and crisp crusted piece of succulent lamb. When roasting a leg of lamb, I usually rub it with Broighter gold rapeseed oil first, season with salt and give it a good initial roast in a very hot oven to get a crust, lower the heat and then cook as normal.

If you want to avoid a lot of fat, lamb leg escalopes are a good way of doing this. They’re better if marinated first and then grilled or fried. They don’t take long and are also good cut into strips for quick stir fries or spiced dishes.

Shoulder of lamb is a wonderful cut when slowly braised - it can be eaten as a joint and any leftovers shredded and used in a shepherds pie or spiced and used to top flat bread.

My first recipe this week is for Sicilian inspired meatballs using lamb instead of beef. The meat is flavoured with raisin and pinenuts – a classic combination from the island and they are then braised in a tomato sauce called sugo. Cannellini beans are added at the last minute and the whole dish would be equally as good with pasta as it would with some new potatoes.

For me soup is an all year round winner and with the “summer” we’re having I think it’s a comforting necessity. Lamb shank forms the base and then vegetables and barley are added. A pistou, a basil paste from Provence, adds a bit of summer sunshine to the dish.

Check out www. lovebeefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk or lmcni.com for details and recipes. The FoodNI trailer will be at the City Hall in Belfast on the 6th September from 12-3 for sampling and I’ll be doing a lamb cooking demo too.