BLACK APRON GUIDE TOO.... LAMB

 
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We have put together a guide to help you with the different cuts of lamb available and what cooking method each cut is best suited to.

 
 
 

When and where to buy?

 

In Britain meat can only be called lamb if it is brought to market in the year of its birth or if born after 30 September and sold in the following calendar year. After this it becomes known as a old season lamb or hogget which is rarely used but either way the meat is still called lamb. 

The meat from the animal will only called mutton when the animal has its first permanent incisor tooth normally around 12-18 months. However most mutton comes from breeding animals which have reached the end of their productive contribution to the flock. Whilst early lamb is very tender, mutton is widely considered as a tougher meat. However  using meat from older animals will have developed more flavour. also it often means you will have to adapt your cooking methods, selecting the right meat at the right age will make a huge difference to how your food looks and tastes. Mutton is starting to regain some popularity but remains difficult to find, though you should be able to order it from a good butcher.

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Buying Tips

 

The choice of meat at supermarkets has improved in recent years, but usually you'll have to settle for what's on the shelf or at the meat counter (if there is one). A good butcher is likely to stock a greater variety of cuts or be able to order exactly what you want. Butchers should also be able to give advice on preparing and cooking, and tell you where, and from which breeds, their meat came from - as should producers at farmers' markets.

Also worth considering are mail-order companies, which can provide amazing choice and quality. Mutton is starting to regain some popularity but remains difficult to find, though you should be able to order it from a good butcher.

Recognising high-quality lamb is as important as deciding on the right cut. When buying lamb, choose the leanest cuts with firm, creamy-white fat (although fat colour alone should not be used as a reliable indicator of quality). 

Avoid cuts with excessive fat or with fat that looks crumbly, brittle and yellowish (this means it's old). The colour and flavour of the flesh will vary depending on where the sheep are raised: usually lowlands or hillside, or even salt marshes. Look for pale-pink flesh for a very young lamb, to a light or dark red for an older animal. A blue tinge in the knuckle bones also indicates that the animal is young. Large cuts are often covered in a white papery sort of membrane that should be removed before cooking.

Mutton is greatly underrated in this country. The cuts are similar to lamb, but tend to be larger, darker in colour with a richer flavour. Choose mutton of a rich brown colour; avoid any grey meat with yellowy fat. Mutton lacks the mildness and tenderness of lamb and tends to have more fat. 

 

 

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Breeds and regions 

 

Lamb is produced all over Britain and excellent quality lamb can be produced from a wide range of breed types and geographical locations. Much 'chilled' New Zealand lamb is also found in supermarkets.

Lamb from rare British sheep breeds, of which there are 26, can be a special treat. The recent developments in encouraging people to eat meat from rare breeds has done enormous good for their conservation - by creating a vibrant market for them, more farmers keep more of them and they gradually cease being rare. 

The small 'primitive' breeds generally do not become ready as lamb until their second year. The meat is dark, closely textured and lean and tastes like a cross between lamb and venison. Cook it slowly in a slightly cooler oven than the recipe states or marinate it first. 

All the breeds have slightly different eating qualities and you can try different breeds at different times of the year.

Rare breeds are farmed non-intensively and you can buy named, pure-bred, rare breeds from speciality butchers, over the internet using specialist meat mail-order companies and from farmers' markets. Rare breed meat costs a little more than commercial lamb, but many chefs and gourmets agree that the difference will be noticeable in the extra flavour which is worth paying extra for.

Rare breeds include:

Boreray,Castlemilk Moorit, Hebridean, Manx Loghtan

North Ronaldsay, Soay, Balwen Welsh Mountain

Cotswold, Devon and Cornwall Longwool, Dorset Down

Dorset Horn, Greyface Dartmoor, Hill Radnor 

Leicester Longwool, Lincoln Longwool, Llanwenog

Norfolk Horn, Oxford Down, Portland, Ryeland, Shropshire,

Southdown, Tees water, Wensleydale 

Whitefaced Woodland, Whiteface Dartmoor.

 

 

Most Popular Cuts of Lamb

 
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SHOULDER
This is from the part of the animal does the most work. It takes a bit of cooking to become tender, but this means it’s full of flavour. a perfect option for stewing and slow-roasting. To bring out all the flavour, cook lamb shoulder on the bone until the meat simply falls apart when pulled with tongues. Recipes using lamb shoulder are guarenteed crowd pleasers

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

SHOULDER

This is from the part of the animal does the most work. It takes a bit of cooking to become tender, but this means it’s full of flavour. a perfect option for stewing and slow-roasting. To bring out all the flavour, cook lamb shoulder on the bone until the meat simply falls apart when pulled with tongues. Recipes using lamb shoulder are guarenteed crowd pleasers

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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CHOP/RACK
Rack of lamb or cutlets are easliy the most expensive cuts of lamb, but for good reason they are delicious and tender. They are from the ribs of the lamb and cooked individually, normally grilled. Chops and racks can be French trimmed, when you see rack with the meat scraped away from the ends of the rib bones then left exposed, this is called a french trim. which looks impressive on a plate. they are amazing served pink.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

CHOP/RACK
Rack of lamb or cutlets are easliy the most expensive cuts of lamb, but for good reason they are delicious and tender. They are from the ribs of the lamb and cooked individually, normally grilled. Chops and racks can be French trimmed, when you see rack with the meat scraped away from the ends of the rib bones then left exposed, this is called a french trim. which looks impressive on a plate. they are amazing served pink.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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LOIN CHOP
These are like little T-bone steaks cut from the middle of the lamb. On one side of the chop is the lamb loin and on the other side is the fillet.  like chops, they’re great for grilling or barbecuing.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

LOIN CHOP
These are like little T-bone steaks cut from the middle of the lamb. On one side of the chop is the lamb loin and on the other side is the fillet.  like chops, they’re great for grilling or barbecuing.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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NECK
Neck is a cheaper cut, it is available at supermarkets and butchers. It is normally connected to the shoulder, but most butchers will sell it separetly as it is becoming increasingly popular with slow cookers coming into prominence. Lamb neck can be cooked slowly so is fgreat for stews,  but it can also be treated like a steak and cooked on the barbeque or grill and served pink.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

NECK
Neck is a cheaper cut, it is available at supermarkets and butchers. It is normally connected to the shoulder, but most butchers will sell it separetly as it is becoming increasingly popular with slow cookers coming into prominence. Lamb neck can be cooked slowly so is fgreat for stews,  but it can also be treated like a steak and cooked on the barbeque or grill and served pink.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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RUMP
As the name suggests the rump comes from the back of the lamb. It is lean, tender and full of flavour, as a result it is a staple for many restaurant menus. you must take care to not overcook as it will become tough.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

RUMP
As the name suggests the rump comes from the back of the lamb. It is lean, tender and full of flavour, as a result it is a staple for many restaurant menus. you must take care to not overcook as it will become tough.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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LEG
The legs of a Sheep  do a lot of the hard work, as a result this cut has a good, strong flavour. Leg of lamb can be roasted whole on the bone, or boned and barbecued. It’s a pretty lean muscle, so be careful not to overcook it.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

LEG
The legs of a Sheep  do a lot of the hard work, as a result this cut has a good, strong flavour. Leg of lamb can be roasted whole on the bone, or boned and barbecued. It’s a pretty lean muscle, so be careful not to overcook it.

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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SHANK
Lamb shank is a cheaper cut but it does go a long way. Taken from the lower part of the back legs, there is a lot of collagen in the shank, so cooked slowly, gives the meat a soft, melt in the mouth texture, making it ideal for stews and slow-cooking. 

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

SHANK
Lamb shank is a cheaper cut but it does go a long way. Taken from the lower part of the back legs, there is a lot of collagen in the shank, so cooked slowly, gives the meat a soft, melt in the mouth texture, making it ideal for stews and slow-cooking. 

Available from Cauldwells in Davenport

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Storing and freezing 

 

Ensure that the fridge maintains a temperature below 4 degrees C (inexpensive thermometers can be bought for this purpose). Always store meat in the coldest part of the fridge (on the bottom shelf). If the meat is in a cling-filmed tray, leave it in the packaging until ready for use. If not, put the meat on a plate, loosely wrap in greaseproof paper or foil, and store in the fridge away from cooked meats and other ready-to-eat foods.

 

Lamb will keep for about three to five days in the fridge. Mince, offal and small cuts of lamb are best eaten on the day you buy them or within one to two days. Joints, chops and steaks will keep for two to three days and large roasting joints up to five days. Leaner cuts last longer than fatty cuts because fat goes rancid before meat. Never let the meat or its juices come into contact with other foods in the fridge, particularly food that doesn't require further cooking.

Quickly freezing lamb reduces the chance of damage to the texture or succulence of the meat. Smaller pieces and large joints can be frozen. For ease of use, freeze cuts tightly wrapped in individual portions. Don't freeze lamb for more than six months. When ready to use, defrost, loosely wrapped, in the fridge allowing five hours per 450g/1lb.           

 
 

Cooking Lamb

 

Roasting lamb

 

Leg of lamb is the favourite cut of lamb to roast as it's very tender and has enough fat to keep the meat from drying out when cooking. Most cuts, except Scrag or neck, are suitable for roasting.

Roast leg of lamb is a favourite for Sunday lunch. Alternatively, ask your butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb or do it yourself. This can then be marinated or stuffed with various flavourings; 

Rack of lamb is also a popular roast as is shoulder - a slightly less expensive option than leg. Roast shoulder on or off the bone, or rolled and stuffed.

To be sure your meat is cooked you can use a meat thermometer. There are two varieties available - one you insert in the thickest part of the raw joint and cook until the desired internal temperature is reached. The other is inserted into the cooked joint after roasting.

Recommended temperatures for lamb are: Medium 70-75C; well done 75-80oc

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Slow Cooking Lamb 

 

Pot roasting and braising - lamb shanks or knuckles are full of flavour. They're best gently cooked until the meat almost falls from the bone. Any cut of lamb can be braised or pot-roasted, and this method works equally well for mutton.

 

A whole shoulder, boned and rolled, is perfect for braising or as a pot roast. Lamb neck pieces also respond well to slow, moist cooking and are a popular choice for making a British favourite, Lancashire hotpot. They're slightly less meaty than other cuts, but have a great flavour. Stewed and braised lamb should be cooked gently in wine, stock, tomato juice or similar liquid until the meat is tender. 

Stewing or casseroling - lamb stewing meat sold in supermarkets generally comes from the shoulder, neck, breast, or shank. For a leaner cut you can also buy diced leg. Meat from the shoulder and neck has the best flavour and is traditionally used in Irish stew. There are various versions of this dish; some cooks brown the meat first, some add carrots, others cook the meat on the bone.

The French have some delicious lighter lamb stews such as Navarin of lamb. Slow-cooked lamb curry or tagine is also a great way to cook stewing lamb.

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Other Cooking Methods

 

lamb is such a tender meat,as a result most cuts lend themselves well to the main cooking methods. Marinating lamb works wonders, helping enhance its flavour and making it meltingly tender. Lamb is popular in many cuisines - used in rich spicy stews, kebabs and rice dishes in French, Spanish, Greek and Middle Eastern cookery. Mutton frequently appears in Indian recipes.

Chops of all kinds are suitable for grilling, barbecuing and pan-frying. Leg or shoulder steaks are excellent cooked whole. For kebabs and stir-fries use diced leg or neck fillet. Other lamb dishes might involve a combination of cooking methods - such as shepherd's pie (traditionally made with minced lamb) where the meat is fried first and then put into a casserole dish with a potato topping and oven-baked. Minced lamb is the traditional meat used in moussaka and can be shaped into Koftas (delicious fragrant kebabs flavoured with spices and fresh herbs). It makes a great stuffing for vegetables. Minced lamb can also be used to make juicy burgers - as in Spicy lamb and carrot burgers - but remember that lamb has more fat than beef or pork, so fry off as much as possible.

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Accompaniments

 

Mint and rosemary spring to mind immediately, but lamb sits well with many different ingredients including French mustard, tarragon, tomatoes, olive oil, aubergine, yoghurt, couscous, apricots, coriander and cumin. Although lamb doesn't often feature in oriental cookery, it's delicious with soy sauce, ginger or honey. Because of its seasonality and its mild flavour, new season lamb goes well with spring vegetables.                 

                                                            

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