Lamb

We aren’t having lamb for Easter this year. That puts us in a minority here in Ireland. Roast leg of lamb is a traditional favourite. I could cite the icy weather that has meant a lot of the new season lamb is not ready for an early Easter. But I won’t. It’s not because Easter falls on April Fools Day either. No, we are not having lamb because we had it last Sunday instead. I was looking forward to preparing it and having a traditional Easter Sunday dinner. But the Wife suggested that I prepare something new with a leg of lamb and put it here for you to see. So, I prepared Roast Leg of Lamb with Mustard and Honey. If the religious amongst you need an excuse to say “Praise the Lord”, this is it.

Lamb and Cumin Burgers (11 of 11)As I write this, it’s a cold January day in Dublin. Not the time to be thinking of the barbecue (or of salads). We need to hunker down for a few more months of stews, curries and roasts. However, I have a broader vision than most. I know that while we are suffering in the gloom of short, dark days here in Ireland, my friends in Australia and New Zealand are enjoying a warm (too warm, I hear), long summer. So, while we may be suffering a gloomfest, the guys and gals on the bottom half of the world need this simple, tasty recipe for Lamb Burgers with Cumin. 

My eldest daughter has, as they say in polite circles, some issues. She doesn’t like gravy. As if that’s not bad enough, she claims to like sauces, jeu and reductions. So, when I am preparing our regular Sunday family dinner, her expectations need to be managed. Beef with a pan reduction is wolfed down while beef with a pan gravy will be rejected out of hand. As if cooking for my extended family was not difficult enough! So, when I decided to serve them with a leg of lamb with anchovies, thyme and garlic and a rich gravy, I knew that there would be a sales job to be done.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of making a presentation to the Associated Craft Butchers at their annual conference and exhibition in County Kildare’s K Club. My talk was titled “Can Butchers Fight Back?”. Independent butchers face huge challenges from a variety of directions. Life is hard for the average butcher. But, they are a stoic lot by nature (stoic is another word for grumpy) and are slow to complain openly. I hope that my talk gave those in the room something to think over. At the end of the conference, I was saying farewell to a couple of chaps from Irish Country Meats (they distribute lamb to the independent butchery trade in Ireland). The lads were clearing out their fridge and offered me a couple of lamb tomahawks to try. I couldn’t say no…

Salt Baked Lamb (9 of 15)

There are lots of things in this life that appear to be interesting but remain untried. It’s not that I have led a particularly sheltered life. I’ve waterskied barefoot across lakes in County Sligo. I’ve ridden my bike to the top of Mount Ventoux in French Provence, I’ve drunk more than two gallons of beer at a sitting (not recently and not while on my bike) and I’ve managed to stay married to the one woman for the past thirty years or so. All of these (except the beer) seemed like good things to try. Yet, there are lots of other things that peak my interest but remain untried. Until last Sunday, Salt Baked Leg of Lamb was in this category.

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (1 of 10)For the uninitiated amongst you, a lepidopterist is a butterfly expert. I wouldn’t know a Painted Lady if she landed on my face and a Comma would only give me pause, as it were. I do a pretty passable job of butterflying a leg of lamb but that doesn’t makes me a butterfly expert. As I was feeling fairly lazy when shopping, I bought my leg of lamb butterflied. So, I spent my time thinking about a marinade. This Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Fennel, Chilli and Honey will have you all a flutter.

Asian Lamb Riblets (1 of 3)It’s a very long time since I studied economics. One of its cornerstones is the law of supply and demand. Simply put, it states that as demand increases the price does likewise. This then encourages new market entrants which increase supply, bringing the price back to where it started. In macroeconomic terms, this works pretty well. In the tiny world of retail that I occupy, this law doesn’t apply. So often, I have my enquiries rebuffed by slovenly sales staff with “No, there’s no demand for them.” or the one that really boils my ageing blood “No, there’s no demand for them any more.”. If I were looking for something like a set of E-180 cassettes or a pair of long johns with a trapdoor, I might not find this so upsetting. But, when I’m looking for lamb ribs in a butcher’s shop, I get pretty irate. “We used to sell them but it’s only the Chinese who eat them now.” was what the spotty youth in fancy dress said to me. 

Rack of Lamb

It really needs little fecking about.

Sorry for the blunt headline. But, I need your attention. If you are lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a delicious rack of genuine Irish spring lamb, don’t go messing around with it. Cook it simply and serve it with other nice simple fare. Don’t go overboard, spicing, adding heat or generally fecking around with it. The flavour is delicious, delicate and doesn’t need much else. 

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