SkewersLamb or called Mutton when it is aged, is a Meat which has been appreciated throughout history. Of course the taste is of consequences because well, by saying the obvious, Lamb tastes nice. Across cultures Lamb has almost less taboos about it, a little like Chicken. But there is definitely an association between Lamb and religions. The sacrifice of an animal to the Gods was a common practice and it was most often than not a Lamb. There is a purity which is associated to a sheep. While a Goat or a Pig were seen as taboo, the Chicken or Poultry was a sacrifice done by poorer people and a Cow or a Bull was given by important people of a certain status.
Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb on the Bone with Boulangére Potatoes.
During my Childhood, Lamb was mainly eaten for occasions like Easter or at least a Sunday. The best cuts were deamed to be the Shoulder or the Leg. In a Market, every Sunday morning, called 'le Marché d'Octeville' was a stall named La Rotisserie. Above a wood fire were Meat roasting slowly, turning upon spits. It was mainly Lamb or Pork. The delicious scent of that stall made people queue by it but also who wanted to go back home for their Sunday Lunch with the nicest piece of Meat they could afford that day. A Shoulder of Pork would make a Man happy to return with that in hand to feed his family, however a Shoulder of Lamb would make a Man happier... In my point of view it was not because the Meat was more expensive, it was something else.
Leg of Lamb ready to go in the Oven.
I will say this, which makes me feel emotional, since I lived in England in 1996 onwards I hardly went back to France to visit. It was not a lack of money or a lack of opprtunity but mainly one Christmas when I did the effort my disfunctional family was arguing so much that I said to myself the 'Never Again'. Crossing back the Channel on the Ferry during stormy weather put the stamp on my decision. Then Christmas 2012 came and my Father phoned me, he rarely did so and he was helped to do so. He wanted to see me for Easter at the very least and he spoke about the Lamb we would have the slow roasted one upon the fire to entice me to come. This was our last conversation. I booked the holiday for Easter. I booked everything but I couldn't go because of a dodgy Landlord who was putting all of his tennants out of a home without sufficiant notice. April and Tax for the Landlord equalled I had a week to find a new roof above my head without fundings. I found a new home, a roof to put above my head, yes, but I lost the last opportunity to see my Father for he passed away two months later... He didn't say to anyone that he had only months to live and I can only remember so vividly his voice speaking of the Easter Lamb basically begging me to come back home one last time. I arranged everything to do so and then the decision was roof or holiday for me, the bombshell but then the clock is re-set to a new reality full of losses.
Pa and Me. André Nicolas (1951-21/06/2013). A Farm style Bath time. He was a bit of a Flower Power Hippy, however an extremelly skillful worker needed for power plants, nuclear submarines, recycling nuclear power plants, tunnels under the sea and mountains, the reparation of one of her majesty's ships, and the creation of petrol rigs... He saved kittens, a dachshound, an owl and an albatross (different times of course). He brought to a war Museum, a WW2 shell which was not exploded yet from a bunker we visited that day... We did dig for Fossiles and found Fools Gold in rivers our Wellies on... My first flight was in a hot air balloon in the shape of an elephant, a circus one, in Balleroy's castle ground with Malcom Forbes holding my little brother in his arms... I dare to say that my Pa was fairly unconventional: He made us see snow falling in the middle of August on the ice sheet of a mountain in Tyrol.
Returning back to Lamb, a roasted one meant and marked an occasion. But I really don't remember us eating much Lamb in any shape or form throughout a year. If I do, it would be Lamb Chops or Cutlets in Spring or Summer at some point, and some Lamb Skewers upon the BBQ.
Lamb Skewers with Red Onions, Cherry Tomatoes served with Lamb's Lettuce.
Nowadays I dare to say that Lamb Shoulder or Lamb Leg are very much upon the menu at Easter. I must confess that it did become a tradition in my own household although we are not religious whatsoever.
However I dare say that I eat considerably more Lamb than I used to in my Childhood in different forms. I am still very partial to Lamb Chops and Cutlets, griddled, grilled,barbecued or pan fried. There is no elegance when I eat them: It is more an affair of watching Gargantua of Rabelais devoring the Chops holding them by the bone with his bare hands. Don't take me to an Indian Restaurant which has Spiced Tandoori Lamb Chops for you will see me eating fourteen of those in not a very lady like manner.
Pan Frying Lamb Chops. I am rather a gluton when it concern Lamb Chops.
I am partial as well to Lamb Steaks which I generally cook like I do with the Chops. For the popular and estetic Rack of Lamb French trimmed I am doing it on occasions like Birthdays or Dinner Parties.
Griddled Lamb Steaks with sautéed Broad Beans, Peas, Spinach and Sugarsnaps. It is a simple Summer Dinner.
More than when I lived in France, I use Lamb Mince mainly for Meatballs but I also use Mince to do Ragu, Lamb Burgers and Koftas. What I like with Mince in general is the ability we have to impart it with Flavours, Spice, Herbs, Seasonings. The freedom of mixing goodness into goodness.
Home Made Lamb Meatballs with Tarragon, Basil, Mint and sautéed chopped Shallots. Ready to be skewered and grilled, alternate with Veg on the skewers, Aubergine, Courgette, Tomato and a Cheese like Halloumi with a salty tang to it.
Of course there is the almost inevitable Shepherd's Pie. In mid season cold days Spring or Autumn it lands on the table to bring comfort to our bellies. It almost whispers into our ears: the weather is not quite warm yet or are the days getting colder? Anyhow this is a satisfying Dish which I will never be tired from making: the perfect use of minced Lamb.
Shepherd's Pie. This old classic favourite has seen many adaptations throughout history, above is a vegan one. But in my humble opinion it should be called a Vegherd's Pie.
There is another classic using Mince, usually Lamb in my home. It is our chilling out in front of a good film on Saturday night: Naan Pizza. It is a cross between a Naan and a Pizza which is delicious, fast to create and dead easy. Did I mention very nice and delicious?? It doesn't take a huge amount of time to build for maximum satisfaction.
One of my Naan Pizzas. The combination for the topping and the side Salad is entirely up to your own taste. But I will say this when I used Minced Lamb, I go for flavours which capture either the Med, Turkey or Western Asia. This is a chill out non pretentious Meal open to plenty of interpretations. Consider it as a let your hair down day but please do not let one upon the Pizza Naan. I tried a Lamb Mince, Cumin, a touch of Nutmeg, chopped Coriander, Spinach, chopped hard boiled Eggs, chopped Spring Onions, Paneer Cheese, sliced Green Pepper upon a base of Home Made Spicy Tomato Sauce which covered the Naan. It was well nice especially with a Mango Chutney to dip any bits to a dip.
Now I will say that a dish I do enjoy a lot is a good 'Navarin d'Agneau'. Lamb Stews in general are a win win especially in Spring with lots of Green.