Luke Mackay on the ethical and culinary virtues of lamb, and why he’ll be dedicating his St George’s Day demo to it
I’ll get to St George in a minute. First of all, I need to tell you all off—for I have just read in an official report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, that lamb consumption is down a huge 11 per cent in the last year.
I find this quite shattering and I don’t for the life of me know why it is happening. Is lamb perceived as being too fatty? Too ‘strong’? Too ‘lamb-y’? I honestly don’t know, but I’m really rather upset about it.
If you want to eat red meat and are ethically minded, lamb, generally, is the meat for you, raised as the vast majority of British lamb is in the fields and on the mountainsides. You can’t battery farm a sheep, you can’t raise lambs on concrete. Sheep are by quite a distance the most ‘naturally’ raised, farmed animal. And they’re delicious to boot.
Fat means flavour
Chefs and other food-minded folk tend to say (a lot) that ‘fat means flavour’—it’s why ribeye is tastier than fillet, streaky more interesting than back and lamb more delicious than goat. The inherent ‘fattiness’ of lamb that some dislike is what makes it tasty. Crisp, unctuous, well-rendered lamb fat clinging to a chop or burnished on a slow roast shoulder is pure joy. Scented with rosemary and cut through with mint sauce, it becomes a perfect bite.
This year, to round off our month-long St George Demo Kitchen residency, instead of the ever-popular beef I shall be cooking lamb, and lots of it. I’ll be there with Dom McCourt, the boss at the Northfield Farm butchery stand which can be found right in the centre of the Market. He will bring half a lamb with him (I’m currently imagining it slung over his shoulder, but I don’t know for sure).
The idea is that he will butcher it before your very eyes and hand me bits to cook with. My job is to cook this wonderful product as simply and sympathetically as possible and your job is to eat it. I’ll start with, to my mind, the greatest ‘peasant’ dish in the world: Lancashire hotpot, using the neck. We’ll then work our way through the carcass using the cheap bits, the offal and of course, the prime cuts.
If you’ve been following the #demokitchen this month (and why wouldn’t you have been?) you’ll know that we have been celebrating St George in his myriad guises, with chefs from the many different countries in which he is venerated celebrating him with food. He is in many ways a perfect symbol for Borough Market and although not technically our patron saint, perhaps he should be. For as well as being a unifying, multicultural figurehead, he is also the patron saint of both farmers and butchers—whom, along with the great man himself, we will be celebrating on Sunday.
Join Luke for tips, tastings and recipes on Sunday 22nd April in the Market Hall, 12-1:30pm; 2-3:30pm