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Easter lamb recipes from Kent sheep farmer Howard Bates

PUBLISHED: 09:37 27 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:37 27 February 2016

Roast lamb with dill and lemon

Roast lamb with dill and lemon

Archant

The seventh-generation Kent sheep farmer on how he farms to protect the county’s agricultural beauty and shares his top tips for cooking roast lamb at Easter

I am a seventh-generation sheep farmer on our family farm in Romney Marsh, where I farm with my wife Yvonne. We have three wonderful children who have now flown the nest but had the privilege of growing up on our 250 acres of land, where we keep 800 Romney Marsh ewes.

We are very proud to farm Kent’s countryside so, as well as strictly limiting the amount of pesticides or fertilisers we use, we also don’t plough the fields to protect its natural beauty and to ensure the local wildlife have a home.

Our farm is also listed as a Site of Scientific Interest and is managed with Natural England, the body set in place to protect England’s nature and landscape. Maintaining the landscape takes a lot of work but it’s definitely worth it to keep our county looking the way it is, and wow, what a view we have!

Our farm has a beautiful working church on the land called the St Thomas à Becket Church which is surrounded by water and is probably the most photographed church in Kent.

As you can guess, it holds a lot of history and is dedicated to Thomas Becket who was the Archbishop of Canterbury and a friend of King Henry II. It’s fascinating venturing inside – it really is like stepping back in time.

The church is still in use and holds popular services on the first Sunday of every month. The local people love it and it attracts quite a few visitors from out of town too, who can pick up a key which will let them go inside the church to take a look for themselves.

I’m a big fan of pure breed flocks and we are well known for our Romney Marsh lamb. Due to its unique sweet flavour we’ve noticed a big increase in demand, particularly from London restaurants – people are really seeking it out. What makes this lamb so special is the way it is reared.

They are born on our farm and graze only on traditional Romney Marsh pastures, which are full of nutritious Kent wild white clover. The tough weather conditions also mean the lambs produce extra fat to stay warm, which marbles the meat, enhancing its flavour and making it incredibly succulent and tender. We also sell wool from our sheep on the side, which we find often used in yarns for clothes and carpets.

We of course love to eat lamb in our household and with Easter just around the corner, we think it’s the perfect meat to serve up as a roast for friends and family.

On the following page are my top tips on what to buy, how to carve and serve it.

My favourite lamb cuts for roasting

1. Lamb mini roast: taken from the shoulder or leg, it’s a smaller, quick-cook joint, perfect for two to three people.

2. Rolled and boned shoulder: a succulent, tender roasting joint, ideal for stuffing.

3. Cushion of lamb: a boneless joint round in shape and easy to carve. Your butcher can prepare this for you.

4. Shoulder of lamb: a wonderful roasting joint from the forequarter with a sweet flavour.

5. Leg of lamb: prime roasting joint we all know and love, perfect for Sunday lunch.

6. Boneless rolled leg joints: comes from the leg with the bone removed and rolled making it easier to cook and carve.

7. Best end of neck (sometimes called rack of lamb): has six or seven small chops, making it a perfect for two to three people and quick to cook.

8. Boned and rolled loin: a succulent joint that can be stuffed before roasting or sliced into loin chops

Shopping for lamb

When shopping for boneless joints allow 100-175g per person and for bone-in joints 225-350g per person. Also, look out for a quality mark such as the Quality Standard Mark when shopping. Meat carrying the Quality Standard Mark logo is traceable right back to the farm it comes from (like ours) and has a guaranteed eating quality.

Carving lamb

It can be nerve-wracking carving meat in front of friends and family so here’s how to cut a leg of lamb with ease:

1 With a sharp knife, begin by carving a narrow ‘V’ shape cut piece from the middle of the leg.

2 Following the angle of the ‘V’, carve the lamb down to the bone and lift out the slices aiming for about 1/4inch thick pieces.

3 Continue to carve slices of the leg on both sides of the ‘V’ cut.

4 Carry on until all the meat is removed from the bone then, using a clean tea towel to hold the bone, turn the joint over and cut horizontal slices away from you.

Roast leg of lamb with dill and lemon

Serves: 6-8

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: medium: 25 minutes per 450g/1lb plus 25 minutes. Well done: 30 minutes per 450g/1lb plus 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

1.3kg/3lb lean whole lamb leg joint

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

60ml/4tbsp freshly chopped dill leaves

2 lemons, zest removed and sliced thinly

30ml/2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

45ml/3tbsp elderflower cordial mixed with 30ml/2tbsp cold water.

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4-5, 180-190°C, 350-375°F.

2. Place the joint on a large chopping board. Make a series of long slashes over the joint and season on both sides. Press the dill and lemon zest well into the surface of the lamb.

3. Put the lemon slices in a large non-stick roasting tin and position the joint on top. Drizzle with the oil and open roast for the preferred, calculated cooking time, basting occasionally with any meat juices. Cover with foil if browning too quickly.

4. 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time spoon the elderflower cordial over the lamb and return to the oven for the remaining cooking time.

5. Remove the joint from the oven, transfer to a large plate, cover and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.

6. Carve the lamb, spoon over the meat juices and serve with a potato, fennel and olive salad.

Lamb mini roast with citrus baby carrots and new potatoes

Serves: 2-3

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35-40 minutes (for medium)

Ingredients:

1 x 350-400g (12-14oz) lean lamb mini roasting joint (thick flank or topside)

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the citrus vegetables:

30ml/2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

45ml/3tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Small bunch fresh thyme leaves

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed

10ml/2tsp Chinese 5 spice powder

400g/14oz baby carrots, cleaned and trimmed

400g/14oz baby new potatoes, halved

45ml/3tbsp thick cut Seville orange marmalade, warmed

Extra thyme leaves, to garnish

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, 190°C, 375°F.

2. In a small bowl mix together the oil, orange juice, thyme, garlic and Chinese 5 spice.

3. Put the vegetables in a large non-stick roasting tin, season and spoon over half the citrus mixture. Lightly shake the pan to spread out and coat the vegetables.

4. Place the joint on a chopping board, make several slits over the surface and season. Position the lamb on top of the vegetables and roast for 25-30 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven, spoon the remaining citrus mixture around the vegetables and brush the marmalade over the joint and vegetables. Return to the oven and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven with the vegetables and transfer to a warm plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve the lamb and serve with the vegetables.

If I want something extra special, I enjoy making a crown rack of lamb. Ask your Quality Standard butcher for a Crown Roast of lamb comprising of two racks of lamb tied together end-to-end into the shape of a crown which can then be stuffed.

Windsor crown roast of lamb with jewelled rice stuffing

Serves: 6

Time to prepare: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lean crown roast joint (16 cutlets), ask your butcher to prepare this for you

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the jewelled rice stuffing

15ml/1tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced

4 cardamom pods, bruised

½ cinnamon stick

225g/8oz basmati rice, rinsed in several changes of cold water

400ml/14floz good, hot vegetable stock

25g/1oz shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

50g/2oz shelled fresh pomegranate seeds

For the pomegranate paste

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

10ml/2tsp dried oregano or marjoram

60ml/4tbsp pomegranate molasses (available at large supermarkets or online)

30ml/2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil.

Method:

1. To prepare the stuffing; heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion with the spices for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the stock, season if required and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the cardamoms and cinnamon stick. Fluff up with a fork and stir through the pistachios and pomegranate seeds. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

3. Weigh the lamb joint and calculate the cooking time. To prepare the pomegranate paste, in a small bowl mix all the ingredients together. Brush inside and outside the cavity with the paste.

4. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4-5, 180-190°C, 350-375°F. Fill the cavity with the stuffing. Cover the top of the stuffing with foil and individually wrap the bones with foil.

5. Place in a foil-lined non-stick roasting tin and open roast in a preheated oven for the calculated cooking time. 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil from the stuffing.

6. Remove the joint from the oven, remove the foil from the bones and serve the crown with the stuffing and seasonal vegetables.

Pea and mint stuffing

As a tasty alternative, put 450g/1lb fresh or defrosted peas in a blender or food processor with 25g/1oz melted butter, 30ml/2tbsp freshly chopped mint, 5ml/1tsp caster sugar, 60ml/4tbsp single cream or crème fraîche, salt and freshly milled black pepper. Roughly blend and follow the recipe from method 4.

For more tips on cooking with lamb, visit: simplybeefandlamb.co.uk



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