If Scotland has the best beef, then the best lamb surely has to be found in the Lake District. Even so, most lamb in Britain is extremely good, since it has the advantage of living happily in its natural habitat – in other words, a large percentage being completely free-range. It therefore has a natural seasonal cycle, which is at its peak in June, July and August (in fact it progresses from West Country lamb which is available in April to Scottish lamb which reaches the shops in August).
New Zealand lamb starts to arrive in December. There is nothing to beat fresh lamb in June after it has had all the benefit of grazing on the lush green spring grass. And what a happy coincidence that all the young spring vegetables are in season too: tiny melt-in-the-mouth peas, baby carrots tossed in herb butter and fresh Jersey potatoes.
Leg of lamb: This is one of the commonest, most popular cuts for roasting. It will serve a large family and is excellent for simple roasting at a high temperature. When you cook meat on the bone, the bone inside provides an excellent conductor of heat – this means that the meat will be cooked more evenly with less loss of juices. I always prefer to cook meat on the bone as it definitely has more flavour and I think the meat cooked nearest the bone is the best part. However, the bones can be removed and the joint rolled neatly, making it much easier to carve, so it’s just a matter of personal taste in the end.
Lamb – shoulder: Shoulder of lamb is one of the commonest, most popular cuts for roasting. It is more economical than leg and has sweeter meat because it is interlaced with layers of fat which melt and keep it moist during the cooking. Some people are averse to shoulder because they think it is hard to carve, though I feel a really sharp knife solves most problems. I always prefer to cook meat on the bone as it definitely has more flavour and I think the meat cooked nearest the bone is the best part. However, the bones can be removed and the joint rolled neatly, making it much easier to carve, so it’s just a matter of personal taste in the end.
Middle neck or scrag end of neck of lamb: For stewing, middle neck or scrag end of neck are generally used because the bones impart delicious juices to the liquid. Best end neck chops are ideal for braised dishes like Lancashire hotpot (in Scotland these are called single loin chops and in the Midland simply cutlets). Fillets from the neck were not a traditional British butcher’s cut but recently some supermarkets and enterprising independents have started to prepare de-boned versions of this delicious meat.
Lamb loin chops: Everyone who loves meat loves lamp chops. They’re quick, easy, but never fail to please. They can be grilled or oven roasted. To make life easy, roast some vegetables along with them and you have a complete supper in no time at all.
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