Comes into season in both spring and autumn (May to October). There is an argument as to which is best, but it does seem as if autumn lamb is a little more flavourful. The leanest cuts are best. Fat should be firm and creamy-white, the meat a good bright red. NB meat from rare breeds tend to be darker and denser.
Lamb is a staple of British (particularly Welsh) cuisine, and also of Greek, Moroccan and Persian. So it is good friends with leeks, rosemary, mint and redcurrant jelly, butter and nutmeg, cloves and allspice. It also likes olives, feta, goat’s cheese, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes and peppers. And it positively flirts with apricots, almonds, pomegranate, pistachios, cardamom, ginger, cumin and saffron. Garlic is always a must.
- MEDITERRANEAN LAMB: Chop and mix sundried tomatoes, herbs and feta cheese. Spread on top of roast lamb for the final ten minutes’ cooking
- LAMB & APRICOT TAGINE: Find a recipe that seems best to you (millions on the internet for this classic combination); serve with stir-fried cabbage, pine nuts and slow-roast carrots (mixed or separate)
- KEBABS: Barbecue or grill cubes of lamb. Scatter them on green salad, tomato mash (see Roast Tomatoes under “T”), plain yoghurt and rice. Be sure to get a bit of everything on your first forkful
- WITH JEWELLED COUSCOUS: A pretty dish. Season the lamb and couscous with lemon juice, olive oil, and whatever you prefer; and then mix in bright red pomegranate seeds, yellow kernels of sweetcorn, and pinky-green pistachios. Plus a few mint leaves. For a cheaper option, chop up yellow, orange and red peppers. Pomegranate is particularly apt in spring because, as you doubtless know, the fruit is associated with Persephone, the daughter of Ceres, Goddess of Harvest and Happiness, and their happy reunion every spring (when Persephone returns to the world from Hades, in ancient Greek legend).
- CURRY: Think aromatic (cardamom, cumin, coriander) rather than chillis; and try adding heat by using the oil from a jar of lime pickle, which adds a lovely citrus note
- ROAST: Rub with garlic and olive oil. Cut slits in the skin and stuff sprigs of rosemary inside. Scatter with salt. Roast and serve with potatoes and greens. Totally predictable, totally delicious
- IRISH STEW: Ensure the potatoes are floury. Eat with a glass of stout
Autumn lamb is born in spring; ‘spring lamb’ is born earlier and as mentioned, some deem it to be not as flavoursome. The woolly things we see in fields were domesticated around the end of the palaeolithic age, 10,000 years ago, from wild mouflon. Mouflon still live in mountainous parts of Europe today: decidedly goaty-looking things, with huge spiral horns, they are to sheep as a Green Thunder Snowdonia mature cheddar is to a cheese string.