|All ingredients in the pot – now to casserole!|
It’s even more important, therefore, that the meat eaters amongst us do our bit to support Scottish livestock farmers by shunning imported products which can be found lining the meat counters of many supermarkets at this time of year, and instead buy quality meat reared in Scotland. Not only does domestically-reared produce taste great, it also doesn’t generate the “food miles” associated with importing beef from Argentina or lamb from New Zealand (see footnote).
Although it is still very early in the season for this year’s Scottish Spring lamb to be found at market, you can still pick up quality home-grown fare in the form of overwintered lamb – or hogget – which is usually between 12 and 18 months old. This tends to have a richer flavour and firmer texture than spring lamb, whilst not being as fatty as mutton (meat from sheep over two years old).
Lamb/hogget is a tremendously versatile meat, and can take a lot of flavours being thrown at it, without being overwhelmed – think, for instance, how well it stands up to the spices used in a tagine or saag ghosht. It might seem an unlikely pairing, but a great flavour accompaniment for lamb is anchovy. Yes, I did say anchovy!
Having picked up some overwintered lamb shank and neck fillet at the weekend, I decided to slow cook it in my own adaptation of a Nigel Slater recipe for lamb shanks with anchovy. As well as using neck fillet – together with some lamb bones to give the sauce even more flavour – I choose to use white wine, instead of red, for a lighter flavour note in the sauce, and also added thyme to the rosemary and bay leaves. This still gives a fantastically flavoursome sauce, where the addition of the fish brings out the full flavour of the meltingly tender meat, yet without adding an obviously fishy taste. Even my other half – who is usually not a big fan of anchovy – loved the dish, so why not give it a go? I’m convinced you’ll find this unusual surf and turf combination a winner.
The following recipe will provided two people with hearty portions.
- 2 x over-wintered (hogget) lamb shanks, or 600-800 grams of neck fillet
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, sliced or crushed
- 4 anchovy fillets (they type from a tin or jar), chopped
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 250ml/8fl oz chicken or beef stock
- 250ml/8fl oz white wine
- A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Preparation and cooking
- Preheat the oven to 160C/300F/Gas 4.
- Season the lamb shanks/neck with the pepper. Brown them in a casserole with a little olive oil.
- When the shanks are slightly browned add the roughly chopped onions and garlic. Chop up two of the anchovy fillets and add to the casserole. Take the rosemary and thyme leaves of the sprig stalks, if desired, and to the casserole together with the bay leaves. Then add the stock and the wine and bring to a simmer.
- When simmering, put the lid on and bake in the oven for two hours, with a little turn of the shanks halfway through.
- Remove the meat to a serving dish and leave to rest in a warm oven. The shank meat can be stripped from the bone at this stage, if desired. Slow cooking should make this very easy to do.
- Finish the sauce by adding two more chopped anchovies and a handful of chopped parsley. Bring the sauce to the boil, check the seasoning on then pour over the resting lamb meat and serve.
The dish is great accompanied by creamy mashed potato and steamed purple sprouting broccoli, or kale.
[Footnote: although some studies suggest New Zealand lamb is a sustainable product, the Canadian report Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer’s Market indicates that the greenhouse gases generated by transporting half a kilogram of NZ lamb into Canada are over a thousand times greater than transporting locally-reared lamb to market.]