Lamb is the meat of young domestic sheep, slaughtered between 3 and 15 months old. The younger the lamb, the paler and more tender the meat. British lamb has excellent flavour and makes an appearance in early spring, when the lambs are between 3 and 5 months old. Special varieties include Salt Marsh lamb, where the sheep are left to graze on salt marshes, giving the meat a distinctive and sought after flavour. New Zealand lamb is imported all year round and although it is usually cheaper, the quality can vary.
How to cook
Best end cutlets, loin and chump chops, fillet and leg steaks are the best choice for frying and grilling. Leg and shoulder joints are ideal for roasting. Keep the fattier, cheaper cuts, such as the middle neck and scrag for braising, stews and casseroles.
Lamb is paired with strong flavours, like garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano, anchovies and olives and acidic ingredients, like vinegar and lemon, to cut through the fat.
All year round. British lamb season starts in early Spring and Salt Marsh varieties from the end of June/beginning of July.
Lamb should be brownish-pink in colour, the darker the meat the older and tougher it will be. However, the meat of some rare breeds will be slightly darker due to their rearing methods. The fat should be creamy-white and it should not be crumbling or brittle. Joints of lamb should be plump and compact, rather that long and thin and avoid any with an excessive layer of fat. Look for rare British breeds for superior flavour.
Bring the meat to room temperature 30-60 minutes before cooking. Lamb is often marinated to enhance the flavour and to tenderise further.
Unless the lamb is vacuum-packed, place on a dish, cover with cling film and store in the bottom of the fridge. Small cuts will keep for 2-4 days and large joints up to 5 days. Minced lamb is best used on the day of purchase. Otherwise, use within the use-by date.
Sprinkle lamb leg steaks with Moroccan spices before frying, cut into slices and use to stuff warmed pitta breads with salad and houmous.