Every man likes to think he's a meat expert.
Over at the Great British Meat Co, they really are meat experts.
So allow us to bring their know-how and your hunger for it together in this new series, taking every hunk of animal man can eat one-by-one, and telling you all you need to know about how to pick it, prep it and cook it to perfection.
This week, our woolly friend, lamb...
1 | Spring isn’t actually the best time for buying lamb. In fact, sweeter tasting lamb is best purchased during late-summer/early-autumn, when they’ve spent all spring and summer grazing on lush grass (now, in other word). Providing it's British, you’ll really be able to taste the difference.
2 | New Zealand Lamb is only a brand. Imports of New Zealand lamb began some 130 years ago, as a seasonal stop gap. Fresh New Zealand lamb is available from January until June, when British lamb isn’t available. A century of marketing pushes around Easter have resulted in New Zealand lamb being held in high esteem thatn its British counterpart. While it can be great, it can also be good, bad or decidedly indifferent, and like almost all meat, it matters most of all which farm and butcher it comes from.
3 | Don't read too much into the cliché 'mutton dressed as lamb' – mutton is not from ‘past-its-best’ ewes, and arguably produces the tastier meat. Just as the case with beef cattle, sheep in their second year (hogget), or third year (mutton) that are fattened on spring and summer grass are physically mature but still young enough to produce prime meat, perfect for roasting and serving pink (just like the best prime beef).
Now becoming more common on restaurant menus (Marco Pierre White for one, is a big fan), lamb rump is a show-stopping main course meat and makes a great alternative to traditional beef steaks. The name gives away where this cut is from, as in the simplest of terms it’s from the point where the leg and the loin meet. It is usually served off the bone, but occasionally bone-in, and makes an excellent romantic shared meal for two, roasted and served very pink.
The ‘knuckley’ bit at the end of a leg of lamb, a lamb shank is perfect for slow cooking with wine. It creates a sticky stewy wine-gravy loveliness, with melting tender meat that falls off the bone. For extra appeal get the butcher to French-trim the shank, to expose some of the bone.
Rack of lamb
Also known as the ‘best end of neck’ the rack of lamb is the first eight ribs (and meat) along from the loin. A versatile cut, it can be subdivided into a variety of presentations, and is traditionally seen in a butcher’s shop window with mini paper chef’s hats on the end of each chop. Two racks left joined together, trimmed and turned into a circle, makes the show-stopping Crown Roast.
Leg of lamb
The best cut for roasting – cooked fast and served pink, or slow and served falling off the bone. If you prefer low and slow cooking, think about trying a fatty well-marbled piece of lamb, or mutton. Generally sold as ‘half-legs’, it can be boned and rolled for easy carving, or if you’re after plenty of leftovers, go for a whole leg.
Taken from the loin, these are comparable to beef sirloin steaks. With a rounded marbling of fat, and a lovely eye of meat, they make great chops for stuffing yourself with whatever flavour you’d like to combine. Generally fried and served medium rare, overcooking is easy so keep an eye on at all times.
More economical than the leg, when cooked for longer and slower, lamb shoulder gives plenty of tender meat. It can be tricky to carve, so it is best to buy it boned and rolled, as this way the fat bastes the meat from within while it roasts.
With so many different cuts of lamb to choose from, it is difficult to pinpoint exact cooking instructions. Like many meats, the level of cooking and ‘pinkness’ depends wholly on the recipient, however we recommend avoiding over cooking unless slow cooking. A bit of pink is always preferable and when choosing any good quality meat, don’t over season or over oil – allow the meat’s natural juices and flavours to come out.
The Great British Meat Company are a family butchers established since 1953 and supply some of the top chefs and restaurants in the country. To buy their 100% British produce and get it delivered free, visit their website.
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