Mutton dressed as lamb

WP LambSalsaVerdePrep

Not being from a farming background and having been in contact with butcher shops that refer to lamb as lamb when it is actually hogget, I used to always wonder when a lamb became a hogget and indeed, when the Spring lamb season actually ended what with Easter being a movable feast. I have since learned that spring lamb is in season for a few weeks around Easter when the lamb is around 5 months old. It is known as lamb from then on until Christmas time after which it is called hogget. At two years old it is referred to as mutton.

As most sheep are grass-fed, Ireland produces the most excellent flavoured lamb. Mountain breeds tend to be leaner than some of the other lowland varieties, but living on different grasses, heather and wild plants gives mountain lamb a very distinctive flavour. Lamb from the hills of Connemara, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo’s own Achill Island has become sought after for this flavoursome distinction.

Hogget has a more pronounced flavour to lamb and I much prefer it. Mutton is stronger again in flavour and can be a bit tougher if not treated with care in the kitchen. Most people I have spoken to about mutton speak of a lasting impression left on their sense memory of the smell of it boiling in their mother’s kitchen as children. Undeterred by this, I have tried but have found it difficult to get mutton as I believe farmers can’t afford to keep the lambs this long for a relatively small number of interested people! But I will persevere.

The following recipe is incredibly easy and is good in the depths of winter as well as on the BBQ – which is just as well with the weather we’ve been having!

 

What you need:

  • 1 boned leg of lamb, or ½ leg of hogget, about 1.25kg weight
  • 1 small bunch of rosemary
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 anchovies (about ½ 55g tin) – feel free to substitute black olives here, about 20 large ones
  • 2 red chillies
  • The zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

What to do:

  1. Ensure the meat has been left out of the fridge to come completely to room temperature before roasting. I usually leave it out for at least 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 220⁰C/425⁰F/Gas Mark 7
  3. Strip the rosemary leaves off the twigs and set aside. Place the twigs in the bottom of the roasting tray, and place the opened out lamb on top. Your butcher can bone the leg for you. I usually keep the bone and add it to the tray for roasting if there is room.
  4. Put all the remaining ingredients, including the rosemary leaves, into a processor and blitz. Spread this paste over the lamb.
  5. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the lamb is still nicely pink inside. Set it aside to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Deglaze the roasting tin with 200ml of wine, stock or water to make simple delicious gravy.

First published in The Western People 22nd June 2015

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Rosemary and garlic griddle lamb

Spring morning - Main Street, Castlebar 2015

Spring morning – Main Street, Castlebar 2015

I love that first morning in spring when you wake and realise it’s light outside. The air changes and everything feels fresher and more hopeful. When I see the days getting longer I always get an urge to start digging in the garden, planning and planting for the summer. Since moving to Castlebar, we had to start in the garden from scratch again. But the one thing that we have kept from our small terraced house in Nenagh are the planters that grew our herbs. It is very rewarding to have one large pot outside the backdoor in a sunny spot filled with your favorite herbs. I have a mix of rosemary, thyme and parsley and an additional pot of bay. I use these herbs in most meals. I also have a pot of lavender which is a wonderful addition to most fruit desserts in the summer time. With the coming of spring I also feel like shaking off the winter days by cooking fresher and usually greener looking meals. And there is nothing that defines spring more than lamb especially from the West of Ireland.

One of our favourite spring recipes is Rosemary and Garlic Griddle lamb. We like to make it on a Sunday when we are going out wandering for a few hours, usually for a walk around Lough Lannagh followed by a lengthy session in the playground. As we are usually returning home hungry, we need something to eat that is quick to prepare, but that is also hearty and tasty and worthy of ‘Sunday Dinner’ status.

WP LambSalsaVerdePrep

A version of this recipe we found originally in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘The River Cottage Meat Book’ where he barbecued butterflied lamb portions from a boned out ½ leg of lamb. You can use these lamb portions or indeed, any lamb chop depending on taste and pocket. Sideloin chops are suitable as they are boneless. But I do love gigot lamb chops which happen to be the cheapest cut and to me the tastiest. You just have to remove the bone if putting the meat into a bap.  You can either use Salsa Verde as an accompaniment on some form of bread or for a more substantial dinner, you can serve with some roast vegetables.

Salsa Verde is a wonderfully herbaceous gooey sauce that has the most verdant green colour imaginable. When you blitz it in the blender, you turn a whole massive pile of ingredients into a few tablespoons of sauce which you immediately feel a little disappointed with in terms of volume. But then you taste it and you realise that a little goes a long way. We have used this sauce with most meats and poultry. We love to use it with lamb but we also often use it as a topping on grilled chicken fillets. The recipe for the sauce listed below is the initial guideline you need to make your own original version. Try it – maybe you could bottle it and make your fortune!

WP SalsaVerdePrep

This recipe serves 4

For the lamb marinade you will need:

Lamb: 6 Butterflied lamb portions from a boned out ½ leg of lamb OR 8 Sideloin Lamb chops OR 8 gigot lamb chops

Rosemary: A dozen good sprigs

Garlic: 6 cloves peeled and roughly chopped

Olive oil: 2 to 3 good tablespoons

A few good twists of Black Pepper

What to do: Add the roughly chopped garlic and stripped rosemary needles to a mortar and bash with a pestle. Add the mix to the bowl, along with the olive oil, pepper and meat. Toss all of the ingredients well and leave to marinade for at least 2 hours. (At this point you can go for your Sunday walk)

To griddle your meat, ensure your griddle pan is smoking hot. Remove the pieces of meat from the marinade and wipe lightly prior to placing on the pan. Don’t leave too many bits of garlic and rosemary sticking to it as they will burn. Cook the meat according to its thickness and how pink you like it. To avoid the meat blackening too much on the griddle pan, for those in our family who like more medium-well than pink, we would usually seal those meat portions on the pan before placing it in the oven to finish off.

For the Salsa Verde you will need:

Garlic: 1 small clove

Flat-leaf parsley: A good big handful with the coarse stalks removed

Basil: 15 to 20 leaves

Tarragon: Leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs

Anchovy fillets: 4 to 5 fillets

Capers: About 1 teaspoon

Mustard (Dijon or English): About 1 teaspoon

Sugar: A pinch

Lemon juice or vinegar: A few drops

Extra virgin olive oil: 2 to 3 tablespoons

Freshly ground black pepper

What to do: Add all these ingredients to a food processor, and pulse to a saucy consistency.

Alternatively, if you don’t have the use of a food processor, finely chop the garlic on a large chopping board. Then add the herbs, anchovies, and capers and chop all together until fine in texture. Add to a mixing bowl, and mix in the mustard, sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper, and when initially mixed, add enough olive oil to give a glossy saucy consistency. As soon as the sauce is complete, taste and tweak to your own liking.

This sauce is best made fresh but what’s leftover, if any, will keep for a few days in the fridge, covered or in a jar.

WP LambSalsaVerdeBap

 

 

A version of this article appeared in The Western People on 23rd of March 2015.

Rosemary and Garlic Griddle Lamb

This is a much used recipe in our house. We like to make it on a Sunday when we are going out wandering for a few hours, usually for a walk in the woods at Garrykennedy followed by a lengthy session in the playground. As we are usually returning home hungry, we need something to eat that is quick to prepare, but that is also hearty and tasty and worthy of Sunday Dinner status. A version of this recipe we found originally in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘The River Cottage Meat Book’ where he barbecued butterflied lamb portions from a boned out ½  leg of lamb. We tend to use either these lamb portions from a boned ½ leg of lamb, which you can find out how to do at the following link, or we use sideloin lamb chops. We use Salsa Verde  as accompaniment on a bap, wrap or roll, or to fancy it up, we serve with some roast vegetables including Rosemary and Garlic Roast Potatoes.

Serves 4

Lamb: 6 Butterflied lamb portions from a boned out ½ leg of lamb or 8 Sideloin Lamb chops

Rosemary: A dozen good sprigs

Garlic: 6 cloves peeled and roughly chopped

Olive oil: 2 to 3 good tablespoons

A few good twists of Black Pepper

I love doing the following: Add the roughly chopped garlic and stripped Rosemary needles to a mortar and bash the bejaysus out of them. However, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle to vent in this way, bruise the Rosemary needles by rubbing the sprigs between the palms of your hands. This helps to release that wonderful aroma. Strip the sprigs of their needles into a bowl. Add the garlic to the bowl, along with the olive oil, pepper and meat. Toss all of the ingredients well, and leave to marinade for at least 2 hours.

To griddle your meat, ensure your cast-iron griddle pan is smoking hot. Remove the pieces of meat from the marinade, and wipe lightly prior to placing on the pan. Leave some bits of garlic and rosemary sticking to it, but not too much as they will burn as you go. Cook the meat according to it’s thickness and how pink you like it.

To avoid the meat blackening too much on the griddle pan, for those in our family who like more medium-well than pink, we would usually seal those meat portions on the pan before placing it in the oven to finish off.

Serve with Salsa Verde, wrapped in some sort of bread, or with Rosemary Roast Potatoes and Roast Root Vegetables.

Photographs courtesy of Sarah Ní Shúilleabháin 2012.