ST ANDREW’S Day is approaching, and although I make the most of our wonderful Scottish larder every day of the year, 30 November is a great excuse to get together with family and friends and celebrate with a homemade Scottish feast.
Unlike Burns Night, there is no set menu that people follow, so it’s a chance to try some new dishes and enjoy the best Scottish seasonal ingredients. Autumn lamb is a perfect option. It’s in season from around September to the end of this month, so this is a good time to make the most of it while you can.
We’re so lucky in Scotland. If you seek out Scotch Lamb – which is born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland – you can enjoy some of the most flavoursome and tender lamb around. The reason it’s so great is the quality of the air, water and land here. The lamb feeds on our sweet grass through spring and summer, and by autumn you can enjoy meat that is truly flavoured by nature itself. Those extra few months of grazing mean that the fantastic natural taste develops over time and, as a result, you’ll get this remarkable depth of flavour.
I really enjoy cooking with all cuts of lamb and use every single part. Although a bit neglected in the past, lamb shanks have become one of the more popular choices recently. People buy them because they are relatively inexpensive, yet still hugely flavourful.
The shanks are a meaty cut, taken from the lower end of the leg of the lamb. If you slow cook them for a long time, you’ll find the meat becomes meltingly tender. This recipe, which combines the lamb with flageolet beans and a kick of cumin, is a wonderful warming dish that you can place in the middle of the table for all of your guests to help themselves and enjoy on a cold winter evening.
Lamb chops are equally great for serving a crowd, and rather quicker to prepare. The meat, if you source the chops from a quality, local butcher, give a lovely tender, juicy meat, but you need to make sure you don’t overcook them and I would recommend you always serve them slightly pink.
Whichever cut you choose, if you buy Scotch Lamb from your local quality butcher and prepare it carefully, using the best method for that cut, I’m sure your guests won’t be disappointed this St Andrew’s Day. n
For more inspiration on what to cook visit www.scotland.org/nightin
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS WITH CUMIN AND FLAGEOLET BEANS
4 lamb shanks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for cooking
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 bouquet garni
2 tbsp tomato purée
300ml white wine
500g chopped tomatoes (full-flavoured fresh or tinned)
500ml lamb stock or chicken stock
400g tin flageolet beans, drained
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Heat the oven to 160C/Gas Mark 2-3. Season the lamb shanks well all over with salt and pepper. Heat a deep, heavy-based, ovenproof sauté pan (or flameproof casserole) over a medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Brown the lamb shanks in the pan (in two batches, or one at a time if that’s easier) to colour all over. Place the browned shanks on a plate on the side. Return the pan to a medium-low heat and add a little more oil if needed, followed by the onion, sliced fennel, garlic, fennel seeds and ground cumin. Add the bouquet garni and sweat gently for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Pour in the white wine and let it bubble to reduce by half. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil, then stir in the flageolet beans. Replace the lamb shanks in the pan, immersing them in the tomato mixture. Put a lid on the pan and place in the oven. Cook for 1½ hours until the meat is very soft and starting to fall from the bone. Place a lamb shank in each warm serving bowl and spoon on the tomato and flageolet bean mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.
LAMB WITH RED PEPPER PIPERADE, GARLIC AND THYME
1 x 8 bone rack of lamb
salt and pepper
8 red peppers
1 onion – chopped
50g bacon – diced
3 cloves of garlic – chopped
150ml lamb stock
1 bouquet garni
cracked black pepper
1 handful of thyme – chopped
To make the red pepper piperade
Remove the seeds and the pith of the peppers, then thinly slice. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the peppers and cook gently, before adding the onion and garlic, then the diced bacon, and cook for 8-10 minutes on a low heat. Add the bouquet garni, and the lamb stock and cook out until the peppers are soft – this should take around an hour.
To cook the lamb
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season the lamb rack with salt and pepper and brown it in the pan on a high heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a roasting dish and roast in the pre-heated oven for another 6-8 minutes. Take the lamb out of the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.
Spoon the red pepper piperade on to the plate. Slice the rack of lamb and place two chops per person on top of the piperade. Garnish with cracked black pepper and a handful of thyme.