John Torode on why new season lamb is his favourite dish

John Torode on why new season lamb is his favourite dish


New season lamb is at its best right now and celebrity chef John Torode is enthusing about the dishes he plans to cook.

Nothing beats local lamb for flavour, he says, whether you cook it simply or zhoosh it up with spices or a marinade.

“Lamb is one of those extremely versatile meats and that’s why everybody loves it so much,” says the TV chef.

Sourced from traceable English farms that adopt best practice regarding animal welfare and production methods, buying Red Tractor Lamb guarantees stringent standards and also supports local farmers.

“One of the great things is that even for novice cooks it’s easy to cook lamb,” adds John.

“Anyone can roast a shoulder or a leg of lamb. Score it well so that fat starts to melt into the meat, making it lovely and moist, then you’re going to get maximum flavour of rich and lovely lamb, which is what we’re after.”

What’s not to love about a show-stopping roast, cooked low and slow, the aroma driving everyone to distraction until they can sit down and tuck in.

But the leftovers are what really sets this apart and make it worth investing in a larger joint, because the next day you can create another amazing dish the whole family will love.

John says a roast leg or shoulder of lamb can be a delicious midweek feast  that you can stretch over a couple of days, making it cost effective.

“Once it’s been cooked you can take it off the bone and shred it, or you put it back in gravy and braise it, or make it into fritters like the wonderful ones my dad used to make,” he says.

“It’s something he cooked when I was a kid and it’s pretty simple. You’ll eat about 10, they are so delicious.

“Using leftovers comes from a time when people were more frugal and in recent months people have become more like that again. With lamb there’s so many things you can do and, of course, a cold lamb sandwich with lots of butter on white bread is still a delicious thing.”

When you see the Red Tractor Mark and the Quality Standard logo, you can be confident that all lamb were born, reared and processed in England and hold whole life quality assurance.

Make sure you chat to your local butcher, says John, who’ll be able to tell you where the lamb came from and may suggest different cuts for you to try.

“The butcher is brilliant because you can see what you’re buying and you can ask exactly where it came from.

Everyone’s been at home recently, planning meals and cooking, and John and wife Lisa Faulkner have shared a recipe on Instagram every day.

Sitting down to eat at the table together is also a daily ritual: “Whether it’s just me and Lisa or the family are here, the table is always set,” he says.

If you are planning ahead, John suggests buying a joint of lamb to freeze until you need it, just taking it out the night before you intend to cook.

It’s also fine to freeze cooked lamb, as long as you defrost properly before reheating thoroughly, then eat it straight away.

Research the dish you want to create, go online at simplylamb.co.uk and be inspired by some of the new season lamb recipes or try John’s recipes then enjoy the preparation which, for many people, is like therapy.

John adds: “It’s one of the great things about cooking and the reason I love it. You have to concentrate, watch what you’re chopping, keep an eye on the stove, maybe have the radio or some music playing.”

Then tuck into the dish with the same passion that went into producing your Red Tractor English Lamb.

Dad’s Roast Lamb Fritters

Dad always cooked these fritters the day after we had feasted on roast lamb. They are easy to make, quick and cheap. I don’t know where the recipe originated but my dad used to cook them for my brothers and they bring back many happy memories of growing up. I love them. And him.

(Makes about 8–10 fritters)

Ingredients

  • 500g roast lamb, fat trimmed off and diced into pieces the size of your thumb
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •   freshly ground black pepper  
  • 350ml cold water
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Heat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.

Method

Mix together the lamb and onion. In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper and water. Drop the lamb and onion into the flour and mix well.

You will need to cook the fritters in at least 2 batches. Pour a good layer of oil into a large frying pan – it should be about 0.5cm deep. Drop large tablespoonfuls of the fritter mixture into the oil. These little morsels are cooked in the same way as a pancake – slowly, over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes, until brown around the edges. Turn the heat down if the fritters cook too frantically. Turn the fritters over and leave to cook for another few minutes until they’re brown and crispy.

Move the cooked fritters into a roasting tin and pop them in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining batch(es).

Serve with creamed spinach, peas, beans and buttered carrots or as a snack with piccalilli, mustard, tomato or brown sauce.

Butcher’s tip

“If you enjoy lamb now’s the time to get some because it’s at its best and in season,” says Roger Anderton, from Brendan Andertons Butchers.

His traditional shop in Longridge sells lamb at its seasonal best, sweet and tender, 4-6 months old and raised on the local Lancashire hills.

His personal favourite is a roasted shoulder of lamb but he adds: “Lamb is such a versatile meat and it’s lovely whether you do a traditional roast or make a lamb curry and at this time of year there’s nothing better than lamb steaks pan fried or on the BBQ.”

Ask your local butcher for some ready made spice seasoning or a marinade if you fancy a change, says Roger.

Roast Leg or shoulder of Red Tractor English Lamb

Ingredients 

  • 1 Leg or shoulder of Red Tractor English Lamb
  • 30ml oil  
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic  

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC/Gas 4

  • Take the leg or shoulder of lamb and score it deeply in a criss-cross fashion about an inch squared
  • Mix the oil and the rosemary together and run into the lamb and all the way into the cuts
  • Slice the garlic and also push into the cuts
  • Sprinkle very liberally with salt and place the lamb into a tray and roast for
  • Shoulder 20 minutes and then 30 minutes per 500g
  • Leg 25 minutes and then 25 minutes pre 500g





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