Easter is something of an anachronism and doesn’t really fit in with British farming reality. Most flocks of ewes lamb in late winter/spring and the lambs take four months plus to grow, meaning that eating new season lamb at Easter definitely doesn’t fit into any rationally conceived farming calendar. However, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Pagan ritual to remind us of our past – especially when it tastes so good. We tend to think ‘leg of lamb’ at Easter, but shoulder can be equally good, if not better. To make the most of it, marinate the lamb for a few hours and then cook slowly. Over time in the oven, the layers of fat reduce and help keep the meat moist, so it’s great as a weekend celebration, and the leftovers used as a seasoning with all sorts of pulses and breads during the days to come; I’d even be tempted to forget the Sunday lunch and move straight on to the leftovers.
Our Easter lambs are all Devonian, born and bred by Peter Howlett at Moorhuish Farm, Brixham and David Camp in the South Hams. Both are top farmers that we have worked with since we started offering meat boxes at Riverford. Born in late spring/summer last year and raised traditionally, it may be a little older than the 4-month old, slightly forced, mainly indoor reared, ‘sucked lamb’, but it’s enjoyed nine months or so out in the fields and a bit of sun on its back; perfect for slow roasting.
As pointed out in Saturday’s Guardian, shoulder is far more suitable for slow cooking and lends itself to a Moroccan spice combo of smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and garlic with a dash of vinegar to sharpen things up a little. Wrap the whole caboodle in tin foil and roast for a couple of hours at 160°C/gas mark 3. Take it out of the oven, unwrap and baste, and give it another hour to crisp up around the edges.
Pulled pork pizzas seem to be cropping up everywhere and our Italian style pulled pork works a treat. Pulled lamb works equally well and makes a good alternative to the usual minced lamb in a Lebanese pizza. In the Guardian, chef Tish suggests a pulled lamb wrap for leftovers and while I like the sound of his quick pickled fennel and cabbage, I’d rather stick with a homemade pizza crust with the lamb pushed into the dough.