Lamb takes centre stage as push is on to get consumers buying local produce

Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic M.ROUX
Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic M.ROUX

Yesterday was the start of Love Lamb Week here and across Britain. Now more than ever, with the spectre of Brexit looming, sheep farmers need our support.

In a country with more sheep than people, it never ceases to amaze me that lamb shipped from New Zealand is cheaper for consumers to buy here than locally reared. Regardless of the economics, lamb from here tastes infinitely better.

Lamb is the most natural meat you can eat – you can see them everywhere grazing. When was the last time you saw a chicken roaming around? And yet we eat imported, tasteless chicken ad finitum without ever questioning its provenance.

The main argument people give for not eating lamb is it’s “all cute and fluffy”. The perception is that lamb meat is from a new born but the reality is that it’s a fully grown sheep by the time it gets to the cooker. A newly born leg of lamb would barely do you as a toothpick. Another reason given is the smell. Good lamb does not have a rancid fat smell. If lamb has an unattractive smell the chances are it’s on the turn, simple as that.

Another common perception is that lamb needs a lot of cooking time. Lamb like any other meat has cuts that should be braised slowly and others that can be cooked very quickly.

My first recipe is for a sticky lamb stir fry. Thin strips of lamb are cooked quickly in a smoking hot wok first and then hit with a hoisin and ginger-based sauce. Ask your butcher to cut some strips from the leg.

The accompaniment is coconut rice – the perfect quantity for four people using the empty tin as a measure for the rice – my kind of recipe. The whole thing can be cooked up in the time it would take you to ring in the order at your local takeaway and produced at a fraction of the price.

There’s nothing like a good roast leg of lamb – roasted with rosemary and garlic and served with crispy roast potatoes, peas and mint sauce. Perfect for a lazy, luxurious weekend lunch. As an alternative for through the week, lamb mince makes a rich and tasty ragu in place of the usual beef. The longer you cook it the better.

My other recipe uses this cut and is also perfect for a slow cooker. Lamb cooked slowly with aromatic vegetables, wine and tomatoes and tossed into rice shaped orzo pasta. The whole thing is topped with crumbled feta and zingy mint.

The Spinning Yarns Festival takes place at Antrim Castle Gardens in the town today and Sunday from 10am celebrating all things associated with wool and linen. I’ll be there cooking up lots of lamb dishes (and a few puddings) with the theme linseed to lamb.

For further information on Love Lamb Week go to beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk or visit your local butcher and give lamb a go.