Autumn Lamb by Diana Henry

An article spotted in the Sunday Telegrpah by Diana Henry, extolling the virtues of Autumn Lamb. An interesting snippet with a lovely sounding Lamb with Orange & Fennel recipe.

“It’s amazing how powerful marketing can be. For years I thought ‘spring lamb’ was something to look forward to, associating it with Easter, better weather and celebrations. Conversely, when I suggest cooking lamb in the autumn people look at me as if I am guilty of the heinous crime of eating out of season. But talk to a farmer or butcher and he will set you straight. The truth is that spring is when lambs are supposed to be born, so you are not eating spring lamb when you eat lamb at Easter. You are eating animals that were born in October to be ready for the spring market. The meat tastes good, but delicate. It’s more than likely that the animal won’t have been outside for long. It has none of that strong, sweet, almost fruity flavour you get from a lamb that has lived, eating grass and gambolling.

Really good lamb is the stuff you eat through summer and into autumn. It tastes more mature, has a finer grain and comes to life with the kind of ingredients spring lamb just can’t handle. Braise shanks with pumpkin and star anise, cook shoulders stuffed with feta and dill, or braise chunks with hot Moroccan spices. Your approach should be rustic and assertive. The fruits we think are so good with pork are even better with lamb; just look at the pie below. Quinces, apricots, plums and damsons are all good, and spices – cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and saffron – can be used with abandon. Clean citrussy flavours are good, too – a gremolata made with orange or lemon rind cuts through that sweet fattiness – and strongly flavoured vegetables (chicory and fennel) are interesting partners.

The cheaper cuts, which tend to have more fat and flavour, are perfect for cooking with distinctive ingredients, so put shoulder on your shopping list: boned, it can be stuffed (try couscous with fruit and nuts, or rice with goat’s cheese and leeks) then formed into a football and tied (the French call it en ballon). Chunks of shoulder are good for braising. And take a different look at that hallowed cut, the leg. Instead of roasting it quickly on a high heat try pot-roasting it long and slow. Serve me an expensive rack of lamb with baby vegetables and my response will be a bit lukewarm. But tell me you’re making an eye-wateringly hot chilli with chunks of lamb, black beans and chorizo and I’ll want your address. Shall I bring the beer?”

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