This week is Love Lamb Week both here and across Britain. Now more than ever, with the spectre of Brexit looming, sheep farmers need our support, not just for this specific week but all the time.
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.
When you have the time, there’s nothing like a beautifully cooked leg of lamb redolent of garlic and rosemary or a slow roasted shoulder, falling apart it’s so tender. Lamb stands up well to spicing and my first recipe is for lamb shawarma. A boned shoulder is opened up, marinated in aromats, slowly cooked and then shredded. This would be delicious with some roast potatoes and mint sauce but my first recipe has the addition of carrot jam, coriander yoghurt and flatbreads.
When I think of lamb the first thing that springs to mind is a lovely big Shepherd’s Pie. Lamb mince is an uncelebrated treasure. It’s relatively cheap and is very versatile. My other recipe is for this classic dish – lamb mince cooked with vegetables and herbs, topped with mash and then cheese. You could use cheddar but if you can get Banagher Bold from Dart Mountain in the Sperrins it would be even better. Serve with some buttered cabbage and peas for the perfect dish for the cooler weather.
For further information on Love Lamb Week go to beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk or visit your local butcher and give lamb a go.