Mutton gets a bad rep and such low exposure in this country, and very unjustly. But I’ve finally had a chance to try it and I can say this: I’m done with spring lambs, because mutton is where it’s at!
My first recipe of the year, and penultimate item from the Blackface meat box, was a huge 1.9 kg rack of Blackface mutton. The key difference in flavour between lamb and mutton is the sheep’s transition from a milk-based to grass-based diet. My rack came from a five year old mutton (consider that lambs are under the one year mark). As a result you get a dark, burgundy-coloured meat with a layer of fat and a richer flavour. According to Blackface’s website, their five year old ewes are carefully fattened to ensure that their award-winning mutton is tender and juicy. Oh wow, did this turn out to be true.
I’ll admit I spent quite a while staring at this mutton rack and wondering what to do with it. In the end I went for a sensible approach and prepared the mutton a day ahead. I love using anchovies with lamb, so I blitzed two tins of anchovies in olive oil with some rosemary, garlic and black pepper to make a sort of tapenade. I smothered it over the rack, clingfilm-ed it like a mummy and left it in the fridge overnight.
The next day:
Cooking the rack was super easy. You could follow any rack of lamb recipe, but I found I underestimated on oven time. First I cut the rack in two, then sealed both pieces on all sides with some butter and oil in a pan. Then I popped them both into a hot oven (220C) for 17 minutes. Because the layer of fat on the rack was so thick, the mutton turned out very rare, so when it came to carving the rack I popped each cutlet into the pan for a few seconds each side.
I served the mutton with buttered mini new potatoes, curly kale and lamb gravy to my willing subjects, Alma, Anton, Nicola and Andy. We each had three cutlets and polished off the whole joint. The mutton really did live up to expectations and it has undoubtedly been my favourite Blackface item so far. Tender, juicy and richer than lamb, with an inch-thick layer of the most decadent and tasty fat. Most of us unashamedly devoured all our fat – it’s not for the faint hearted!
Enjoy the photos, taken artfully (sadly not featuring) by Alma Berliner.
A rack of mutton cost £24, and was money well spent.
PS you should join the mutton revolution here – Mutton Renaissance.