Lamb is the probably most seasonal meat we sell. We begin the year with rich and robust hogget from the moor, then move onto delicate new season Dorset lamb in time for Easter. It is then the mules, a Blueface Leicester and Blackface cross, which see us through late summer to January, and these animals are somewhere between the two. New season’s lamb is easily overpowered, and so instead of reaching for garlic, rosemary, anchovies or capers, we recommend using what is in season at the time; wild garlic, English asparagus, kale, spring onions, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli and spinach. However when late summer arrives, and with it vibrant red peppers and juicy tomatoes, go for whatever you like – lamb can match even the most robust accompaniments from late summer lamb until Easter.
Scrag End / Neck
The thinner end of the neck nearer the head, a slow cooking cut which is left in little cross sections on the bone. Cooking on the bone enhances the depth of flavour and makes for a rich, silky sauce.
Scrag end needs to be cooked slowly in plenty of liquid. Dust the pieces in seasoned flour and brown in hot oil. Add to a casserole or curry base ensuring there’s plenty of liquid, and simmer very gently until soft and tender – anything up to three hours. Allow to cool a little, remove the pieces of neck, and gently flake the meat onto a plate. While you’re doing this, you may want to reduce the cooking liquid to a thicker sauce. Taste and season the sauce once the desired consistency is reached, then add the meat, discarding the bones.
The hardworking heft of muscle from the forequarter of the animal, which can be broken down into separate parts or roasted whole to great affect. Although leg (from the rear of the animal, which does less work than the front) is often favoured as the premium cut, it is shoulder the gives the most flavour and succulence, thanks to its marbling of fat and intramuscular tissue. Cooked slowly and allowed to tenderize over a number of hours, shoulder has every ounce of leg’s majesty at around half the price. While shoulder makes a fantastic roast, it’s ideal for dicing or mincing too. A whole shoulder will feed four to eight, depending on whether you have a small new season lamb around Easter or a large hogget in the new year.
With a whole or piece of lamb shoulder, you can’t really go wrong. Marinade or flavour if you wish, then give it 10 minutes at 200°C before adding a glass of wine and turning the oven down to 140°C for 3-5 hours.
A long, meaty stewing cut from the lower part of the neck across the top of the shoulders. A marbled, textured fillet of meat that is absolutely packed with flavour – it used to be exceptionally cheap but now not so thanks to demand. Still good value for the flavour it gives.
A cut for the braising or casserole pot, and one that’s best left in fairly big chunks. Dust in a little flour (if desired), season and sear in a very hot pan, before cooking very slowly with plenty of liquid. Serve in satisfyingly meaty chunks or shred into a ragu once tender.
SHIN / FORESHANK
The shank – end of the leg – taken from the front of the animal, a small ‘hock’ to serve one. Although it is possible to buy the shank separately, it’s much better left on the shoulder as a larger joint that will cook much more satisfyingly.
Taken from the first seven ribs along the backbone, which can be prepared as a whole – small but impressive – roast or sliced into individual cutlets for the grill or barbeque. Two or even three racks can be curved (meat side in, fat side out) and tied together to form a crown roast, which certainly delivers a bit of wow factor at the table. To add a bit of finesse to a rack, the ends of the bones are scraped clean with a knife, which is a process known as French trimming, but is nothing more than aesthetic (though essential to give the flexibility to make a crown).
Rack: allow the rack to come to room temperature and heat the oven to 180°C. Season the meat with salt and pepper, and rubbing with a little thyme or rosemary if you wish. Get a large pan very hot and, using tongs to hold the meat, sear all surfaces until browned – around 8 minutes. Place the seared rack of lamb onto a roasting tray and put it straight into the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on whether you like your lamb rare or medium rare. If the rack is from a particularly small or large lamb, adjust cooking time accordingly. Allow to rest for at least ten minutes before carving into individual ribs and serving immediately.
Crown: allow the crown to come to room temperature and heat the oven to 200°C. Season the meat with a little salt and pepper, and rub with any additional aromatics you fancy such as rosemary, thyme, juniper or garlic. Cover the tips of the bones with a little foil to prevent from burning, then place in the oven for approximately 40 minutes for medium rare. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Cutlets: individual cutlets will cook in 8-10 minutes in a hot griddle pan or on the BBQ, turning frequently.
The loin is the ribcage along the middle section of the backbone and is prized for its sweet, tender eye of meat, which should be kept nice and pink. It can be prepared as a single loin chop, a Barnsley (double loin) chop, saddle, noisette or left whole as a superb roasting joint. The saddle is a grand, rolled roasting joint where both sides of the loin are left on the backbone but the ribs removed to make a neat round, whereas a noisette is the centre of a single loin, completely boneless. Both usually have the external fat removed during butchery but then bashed flat and tied on to baste the meat as it cooks.
All of the above require searing in a hot pan, and then a short time into an oven which has been heated to 170°C – see the times below to leave the centre nice and pink. Loin and Barnsley chops can be cooked (to delicious effect!) on the barbecue.
Single loin chop: 5 minutes – Double loin chop: 8 minutes – Rolled saddle: 6 minutes – Noisette: 5 minutes
The end of the back where it joins the leg, this cut can come on the bone (which can be made into chops) or boned. It is a perfect small roasting joint, or can be sold as part of the leg.
Season and sear in a hot pan, before finishing in the oven at 170°C for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size (and a little longer if on the bone). Chump chops can be grilled or fried for 4-5 minutes either side.
Sometimes referred to as the belly (to draw a comparison to pork), breast of lamb is a fatty little cut but can provide a sumptuous dinner for two at very little cost if properly prepared. For best results, buy off the bone and rolled into a neat little joint.
Sauté some onions, carrots and celery and transfer to a casserole dish. Place the lamb joint in the dish and add a little salt, pepper and any herbs or aromatics you fancy – robust stuff like rosemary and thyme work well. Add 300ml of water, add the lid and cook the whole lot at 140°C for three hours, until very tender. You can either slice and serve as it is, or allow to cool, refrigerate until firm, slice and flash under the grill to crisp up some of the fat.
Arguably the most popular cut – a little more finesse than shoulder but without the expense of best end. You can buy a whole or half leg on the bone, boned and rolled, or butterflied for a wonderful barbecue cut. And if you don’t need a whole one, you can buy a leg steak instead – either whole, a cross section including the bone, or from an individual muscle, a smaller, fatter steak.
There are many hundreds of recipes out there for roast leg of lamb, so we’ll give you guidelines for the easiest roast you’ll ever do. Although this technically counts as a slow roast, it’s at such a low temperature that the meat is left a pale pink almost throughout – and is exceptionally tender.
Prepare the leg of lamb with any herbs or aromatics you wish, and heat the oven to its hottest. Lay the lamb on top of sliced onions, fennel and carrots in a roasting tray. Put the tray on the lower shelf in the oven, close the door and immediately turn the temperature down to 140°C. After 40 minutes, pour over a large glass or wine (either red or white will do – we actually prefer a full-bodied white) and roast for a further four hours, basting every hour or so. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and drape with a bath towel. Let it rest like this for up to an hour, while you finish any side dishes.
From the top of the back leg, and larger than the fore shank. Although this cut has become extremely popular in recent years, we actually prefer to leave it on the leg for roasting, though if removed and sold separately it should be braised.
Lamb’s liver can be almost as good as calves’ liver, but usually costs just a fraction of the price. The one thing you must ensure is that it is very, very fresh.
Season and cook very quickly, either in a frying pan or griddle. Oil the pan before adding the meat.
Often overlooked, these are sweet and tasty nuggets, just make sure you buy kidneys extremely fresh and prepare them properly.
First peel off the white membrane (your butcher may have already done this for you), then cut the kidney in half (so that you have two, long flat sides, not a ‘top’ and ‘bottom’). Using a pair of good kitchen scissors or a small sharp knife, remove the fatty white bit in the middle – take your time so that you do not lose too much flesh. You can then cook the kidneys – either sauté them in butter with cayenne pepper, paprika salt, a little redcurrant jelly and a splash of cream and serve on toast, or cut them into small pieces and add to a casserole.