I love to mark the passage of the year with seasonal meat. So that, as the frantic buzz of Christmas fades like the blossom on a winter cherry, my thoughts turn – led by an internal compass – to mutton. Because for me, February is mutton.
Luckily, I’m not alone in this passion for past-it lamb. Jason, a farmer friend who provides the shop with his delicious Alde Valley mutton, is equally evangelical about it, and we always get together at this time of year to plan a mutton celebration.
Of course, the challenge of eating meat (or in fact anything) seasonally is to combine the familiarity with the exotic, so that you’re not churning out the same recipes year on year. With this in mind, I’ve been expanding my mutton-cooking repertoire. These fragrant recipes are easy and should serve 6. The first is adapted from Olia Hercules’s ‘Mamushka’ – a lovely collection of Eastern European recipes published last year – and the second is adapted from a recent Times recipe.
Azerbaijani chickpea and mutton soup
- 600g mutton neck, cut into 6 large pieces
- 1 onion, peeled and whole
- 2 dried limes, pierced, or 1 fresh lime, halved
- 4 pints cold water
- 400g can chickpeas
- 6 new potatoes, peeled and whole
- 1 bunch parsley stalks
- Half teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Half bunch fresh coriander
- Half bunch dill
Place meat, onion and limes in a large pan and cover with water. Cook on low heat for roughly an hour. Add chickpeas, potatoes, parsley and spices and simmer for at least an hour or until meat is tender. Season well. Take out potatoes and lamb and place in middle of table with bunches of coriander and dill. Decant broth into small bowls, and let guests add herbs, lamb and potato to their taste.
Mutton with orange and chestnut
- 900g diced mutton
- Half a teaspoon each of cumin, cinnamon, coriander
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 175g ready-cooked chestnuts
- 150ml orange juice
- 900ml hot stock
- 2 oranges, peeled and thickly sliced
- Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 160c. Mix spices, salt and pepper and meat in a bowl. Heat half the oil in a casserole over a medium-high heat, add lamb and cook for 6-8 min or until browned. Set aside. Heat remaining oil in casserole, add onion and cinnamon, stirring well for 3-4 min. Add chestnuts and orange juice. Increase heat for a minute, stirring, then reduce heat and add lamb and its juices to pot. Pour in stock, boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover, then cook in oven for 2 hours. Top up with a little hot water if drying out. Add orange slices for final half hour. Check seasoning, stir coriander through and serve with couscous.