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Mutton

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Mutton

While our lamb is widely loved for being tender, fresh and succulent, there are many reasons to try our mutton.

Mutton comes from sheep grazed on pasture for 2 to 3 years. The meat has a darker, richer colour, and is higher in nutritional value as it has time to really develop flavour.

In previous times, mutton was considered far superior to lamb, having better flavour and texture, and was served at many a banquet. Christmas 1660 saw Samuel Pepys record in his diary dining on “a good shoulder of mutton … and a chicken”.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management published in 1861 also praises mutton “both by connoisseurs and medical men, it stands first in favour … digestible qualifications, or general wholesomeness …”

More recently, the rise of man-made fibres has seen fewer sheep kept for wool, making the main product from the flock the annual lambs. Mutton became less available after the second world war, and subsequently less popular on the British dinner table.

Now, sadly, some folk seem reluctant to even try this wonderful product. People seem to think it will taste “gamey” or “strong”, but this is not altogether correct. The difference between lamb and mutton is akin to that between beef and veal. Beef is widely adored for its well-developed flavour, as mutton deserves to be too.

Much of the prejudice against mutton comes from a period when it was imported from abroad to meet the high demand, and often meat from male wether (castrated) animals was used. Although actually preferred in Afro-Caribbean cuisine, wether meat is strong and tough.

All mutton at Ardross comes from female sheep.

When it comes to cooking mutton, it’s suited to longer, slower cooking when compared to lamb, but you will find that many of the recipes you are used to making with lamb get an incredible flavour boost when made with mutton.

Mutton fat has a higher stearic acid content, which makes it less digestible than lamb. It’s a good idea to cut off any superfluous fat, leaving only enough to render down slowly, helping the meat become tender and delicious.

Why not try substituting Ardross Mutton mince in your next Shepherd’s Pie, or try this quick and easy cheat’s Moussaka:

To serve 4

750g minced mutton
One large onion
2 aubergines
2 cloves garlic
450 ml Jar or carton ready-made cheese sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 bay leaf
Splash of red wine
Can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Soften the chopped onion in a little olive oil. Add garlic and fry for a minute or two longer, then add the minced mutton and fry until separated and browned.

Stir in herbs and cinnamon, and add chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and a splash of red wine. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the aubergines into 5mm/¼ inch slices. Place onto an oven tray, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 220°C/200°C Fan for 10-12 minutes until softened.

When the mutton sauce and the aubergines are ready, place a layer of mutton sauce, then a layer of aubergines in an oven-proof dish. Repeat to use up both sauces.

Finally, in a jug, mix the beaten egg into the carton of ready-made cheese sauce, and pour over the moussaka. A little chopped parsley over the top looks good, but is optional.

Bake at 220°C/200°C Fan for 30-40 minutes until the top is brown and bubbling.

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