Sep 10 2004


Vicarage Mutton.

“Hot on Sunday
Cold on Monday
Hashed on Tuesday
Minced on Wednesday
Curried Thursday
Broth on Friday
Cottage pie Saturday”

Here we breed White-faced Dartmoor, Jacob and White-faced x Jacob sheep! Our lamb is between six and eight months old when it is taken directly by us to our local EU approved abattoir. We get the sheep there early in the morning and the job is done quickly and efficiently, humane for the animals and good for the meat. Frightened, stressed animals equal tough meat. The meat is hung then butchered and packed to customers requirements.

Traditionally most cookery books say roast a leg, loin or shoulder of lamb for twenty minutes to the pound plus a little longer if you like it well done, but I prefer to sprinkle the joint with a little olive oil, coarse salt, crushed garlic and rosemary and start it in a very hot oven 230C (450F), Gas Mark 8 for the first twenty minutes. Then I reduce the heat to 190C (375F, Gas 5), and finish the cooking at approximately 30 minutes to the pound. If you have an Aga or similar Range simply move it to the lower oven. This way the meat cooks more gently and stays succulent and slightly pink in the centre.

When it is cooked I put it on a serving dish and let it rest for 15 minutes, this makes it much easier to carve.

A shoulder is very good browned in oil then cooked in a slow oven for about two hours in a covered pot on a bed of peeled potatoes, a little stock, crushed garlic, chopped onion , salt and pepper…

(Elizabeth David, French Provincial Cooking)

…or leave out the potatoes and half way through cooking add chopped tomatoes, onion, aubergine, green olives, garlic, salt and pepper.

(Elizabeth David, Summer Cooking)

Devonshire Squab Pie.

Up until the C19th lamb or mutton was often cooked with a lot of dried fruit, and meat pies resembled our Christmas mince pies. Here is a modernised version of a very traditional local pie from Jane Grigson’s ” Good Things ” It was originally served with clotted cream!

Cut some lamb off the bone into slices. Core, peel and slice some apples. Stone a few prunes. Grease a pie dish, make layers of the meat, apple and prunes, spicing each layer with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, mace, salt and pepper. Pour in a little stock or water and cover with a short crust pastry lid. Bake for about an hour, protecting the pastry with brown paper if necessary at 180C ( 375F, Gas 5 )

Lamb Hamburgers are not a new idea: ” take the fleshy part of a Leg of Mutton, stript from the fat and sinews, beat that well in a Morter, with Pepper and Salt, and a little Onyon or Garlick, Water by itselfe, or with Herbs according to your taste, then make it up in flat cakes and let them be kept twelve houres betweene two Dishes before you use them, then fry them with butter in a frying Pan and serve them with the same butter, and you will find it a dish of savoury meat”. A Persian dish from The Complete Cook 1658,

(Elizabeth David, Spices Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen)

Irish Stew and its’ English cousin Lancashire Hotpot should not to be underrated either. Allow a pound of scrag or middle neck of lamb to two pounds of potatoes, half a pound of onions and just enough water to cover, some salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Pack layers into a heavy oven proof pot which has a tightly fitting lid. Various other ingredients can be added to the layers according to tradition and your preference eg. mixed herbs, pearl barley, stuffed prunes, mushrooms, kidneys, oysters (!) to name but a few. But the real secret of these two old traditional dishes is to cook them long and slowly for at least two hours ( or you may have a pressure cooker…) the day before you want to eat them, let them cool and then place in the fridge or larder over night. Next day remove the fat from the surface before reheating slowly . That way all memories of school stew will vanish in a trice!

And from “The Closet of the Eminent Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Knight Opened” in his “Excellent Directions for Cookery 1667” I found a wonderful recipe for The Queens Hotchpotch of Mutton, oh so long and laborious but this marvellous little recipe for Minced Pyes might just be practical today………….

My Lady Husson makes her finest minced pyes of Neats-Tongues; but holdeth the most savoury ones to be of Veal and Mutton equal parts very small minced. Her finest crust is made by sprinkling flower ( as much as is needeth) with cold water and then working the past with little pieces of raw butter in good quantity. So that she useth neither hot water nor melted butter in them: And this makes the crust short and light. After all the meat and seasoning and Plums and Citron Peel and co is in the coffin, she puts a little Ambered sugar upon it thus: Grind much two grains of Ambergris and half a one of Musk with a little piece of hard loaf sugar. This will serve six or eight pyes, strewed all over the top. Then cover with the liddle and set it in the oven.

I suspect we would be inclined to miss on the Ambergris and Musk in the C21st!

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