Lamb/Mutton is a tricky meat – it is usually the most ethical option since sheep aren’t farmed intensively in the same way that pigs and poultry are. However it is the worst culprit when it comes to those pesky carbon emissions which are so bad for climate change. So lamb is definitely a treat in our house and we have it very rarely (even though it is my favourite meat by a mile!).
Last year our smallholding friends had a sheep that had bad teeth and wasn’t going to last. It was sent to slaughter and we bought half the meat.
This is definitely mutton and not lamb. Lamb refers to sheep meat which is only 4-6 months old, Hogget is 1 year old and Mutton is 2 years old. So (full disclosure) the carbon footprint will be even higher since the Mutton has had another 1.5 years of expelling methane into the atmosphere. We eat Lamb and Beef so rarely that we think we can live with the carbon cost (after all this Mutton in the freezer will probably last us well over a year). And we knew that this animal had been treated excellently, raised slowly on pasture and would have died whether we had intervened or not. The meat is fantastic quality and totally delicious, it was a tricky balancing act but one I’m comfortable with at the moment.
So all of the angsting out of the way…it is with great anticipation I’m looking forward to dinner tonight.
Mutton has a much stronger flavour and the meat is much tougher, requiring long slow cooking rather than the juicy pink tenderness of lamb. Most of our favourite recipes for Mutton and Lamb come from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (particularly this Merguez Spiced Shoulder – seriously, if you are going to make one lamb recipe in your life, make the Merguez Spiced Shoulder) but tonight I’ve departed from this wisdom and gone for a long slow cooked Mutton Tagine. The long cooking turns the meat from tough and gristly into melting, tender and fall apart.
Check out this interesting article for more of the science on how the tough collagen in the meat turns into tender and rich gelatin.
I’ve cobbled the recipe together from a number of sources and I’ll shortly be ranting about Ras El Hanout spice mix!
Becky’s Mutton Tagine
300g cubed Mutton
1 Onion diced
3 cloves of Garlic sliced
250g Mushrooms quartered
2 large Carrots cut into large chunks
3 medium potatoes cut into large chunks
handful of dried apricots
tin of tomatoes
2 tsps Ras El Hanout Spice Mix
A pinch of saffron
2 Lamb stock cubes
1 litre boiling water
Brown the cubes of meat and remove from the pan. Then cook the onion in the same (now empty) pan until it is translucent.
Meanwhile boil a litre of water and dissolve your stock cubes and saffron.
Then add the mushrooms, garlic and Ras El Hanout, stir for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms are coated in the spice, then add the carrots and potatoes. Stir again for a couple of minutes then add the lamb stock, tomatoes, apricots and mutton.
Bring to the boil then put in a low oven (130C/ 1/2GM/ 250F) for some hours. Mine was on for about 5 hours (it probably only needs about 2-3 but I made mine in my lunch break at work!). And tah dah! The five hours did mean that the flavour was incredible, rich and intense.
Serve with couscous, I’ll do another post about how I make perfect fluffy couscous since I can’t find the link right now!
To make this extra Eco Friendly you could make it in a slow cooker. But personally I think many things which go into a slow cooker come out tasting of brown and this is one of them. You will get a better flavour doing this on a low heat in the oven, you will cut your emissions and the costs doing it in the slow cooker.
In the future I’d really like to try making a haybox to put it in after the initial boil on the stove. This would really cut carbon and when I have the time I’ll definitely be trying it out.
It is really sad that Mutton is not a cheap cut and not a meat which is easy to obtain, we are incredibly lucky that we live so close to sources of good quality meat straight from the farm.
Wow – I almost forgot my rant! Ras El Hanout Spice mix from Sainsburys. I stupidly assumed it would just have the spices in I needed. I know it is better to grind them yourselves but I was in a bit of a hurry and it is non-trival to get ground galangal and dried rose petals at the moment. I was not expecting the huge amount of sugar and salt it was bulked out with. Sugar was the second highest ingredient. Bad show! I can add as much sugar and salt as I like after the fact, but I can’t take it out of a spice mix.
I’ve learned my lesson – home blended mixes all the way from here.