Four days of glorious sunshine and the ‘pink one’ has launched into her campaign to wear summer dresses. Granted, it’s sunny, warm is more debatable! I’m certainly not knocking these glorious blue skies, far from it, merely acknowledging how fast one can move from the dark days of winter to the promise of spring and then summer. Walking around the farm last weekend I spent some time admiring our steadily growing flock of Jacob sheep. What started off as two lovely ladies from the borders has grown to something more like 14, with the majority of those about to lamb. ‘Spring lambs’, how utterly divine; I’ll have money on it that come Easter the flock will have increased and we’ll have a field of bouncing lambs.
In order to eat lamb at Easter or ‘Spring Lamb’ as it is so umimaginatively called, it has to have been born about as far away from Spring as is feasibly possible, Christmas at the latest but more likely late Autumn. Our lambs that are going to be born in the next few weeks are in my view the true spring lambs. Born in March, at a time of year that is less hostile and unfriendly than the depths of winter, our sheep don’t even come inside to give birth. It’s all rather ‘do it yourself’, and takes place out in the field. All things being equal, and assuming there are no complications, the little darlings can be seen shakily walking around on the new spring grass within minutes of being born. Mr. Fox, that crafty rascal, often pinches one, which is very irritating, but otherwise our lambs soon learn how to fend for themselves and how to avoid ‘Toffee’ the fat Shetland and her rather wild kicking frenzies! Fed on Spring grass and their mother’s milk, fattened up on the richness of summer grass with the sun on their backs and then it’s curtains in the autumn, at least that’s what happens to the boys, the lucky girls are kept on to grow the flock. That’s nature, or so I am led to believe! All pretty logical – which is why I think lamb tastes much more interesting in the autumn than now. Lamb that is sold as ‘spring lamb’ is unlikely to have had any grass, it will have been entirely milk-fed and probably been indoors most of its’ life – which in itself can produce a delicious flavor but one that is much more delicate than lamb that has a combination of grass and milk. At the end of the day for a hobby sheep farmer such as myself, it has just baffled me for years all the hype over spring lamb when the maths simply does not add up. The reality is there are 2 different kinds of lamb, one that is born in the late autumn and early winter months that is predominantly milk-fed and destined for the Spring market, and one that is born in the spring months that has a mix of milk and grass and enters the market, somewhat different in flavour – arguably more intense, in the late summer early autumn. Bingo – spring lamb explained – (kind of)!
Will we be eating lamb at Easter? Well of course, I mean who in their right mind wouldn’t? Yet, it will be last years lamb, plucked from the freezer I hasten to add! We are now becoming pretty long on lamb but are a long way from tired of it. A recent addition to our lamb repertoire of recipes has a middle eastern flavour, it requires time and hence a little planning but you will be rewarded. Hear me out; smothered in harrissa paste and slow roasting a shoulder for 5-8 hours in the oven creates the most wonderfully rich, aromatic and tender meat. I have to admit I’m quite addicted. Accompanied with the all important tahini yogurt and muhamra its a combination that is hard to resist. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not Easter Sunday fare, we tend to tow the party line where important, but it is refreshingly different and a real wind of change from the norm. One of the best things about it is the all important ‘leftovers’. Every lunch this week I have been feasting on the various components that go with said lamb but in a salad style combination. ‘Muhamra’ is the true jewel in the crown. Unlike anything I have ever eaten before I found a recipe in my favorite book ‘Honey & Co’ – it is quite delicious and versatile in the extreme. It really can be paired with anything. Please try it as it will bring a smile to your face. Happy days, spring is here!
Harrissa Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb
1 jar of Belazu Rose Harrissa Paste
1 shoulder of lamb
Set the oven to 150 and place the lamb in a roasting tray lined with foil. Cover/ smother the lamb shoulder with the harissa paste – depending on the size of the lamb shoulder you may use the whole jar – or possibly only half. Cover tightly with foil and put in the oven to slow roast for between 5-6 hours. After this time the lamb should just fall away from the bone when you pop a knife in. It should not to be carved but more pulled apart. Serve warm.
Muhamra (from Honey & Co)
1 red pepper 180g
1 large plum tomato 120g
1 red onion 100g
1 head of garlic unpeeled
1 chilli red
1 tbsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
60g walnuts, roasted
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2tsp smoky paprika
Remove the seeds from the pepper and cut into chunks, cut the tomato into chunks, cut the onion into wedges and cut the head of garlic straight thorugh the middle.
Place the pepper, garlic, tomato, onion and whole chilli in a roasting tin with the 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven until carmelised around the edges, about 30 minutes. REmove from the oven and let cool.
Squeeze out the soft flesh of the garlic, and discard the skins, remove the top stem of the chilli. Mix all the vegetables, all the walnuts, the pomegranate molasses, paprika and last spoon of oilve oil and now place in a magimix and blend to a puree, not completely smooth but not too chunky. More like a pesto consistency. Serve as needed. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Salads of the week:
Roasted butternut, beetroot, rocket, tahini yogurt, homemade pesto and Muhamra
Herbed bulghar wheat, avocado, beetroot, tahini yogurt and Muhamra