Nancarrow Farm mutton
It was with some anticipation that we returned to Truro Farmers Market after a long gap since the Jubilee Farmers Market in June. We had heard on Twitter that Nancarrow Farmhad started to supply mutton. In previous towns we have lived we were only able to obtain mutton from Halal butchers and even many of them are starting shun mutton in favour of lambs (sheep under 1 year old). In any case I have been eating mutton all my life and I would choose it over lamb if given the choice every time. It’s struggled to become a chefy ingredient, mainly because modern chefing is about speed and precision and mutton doesn’t afford either luxury if you want to eat it right.
Having already enjoyed Nancarrow lamb and beef I eagerly cast my eye over the stall. I was delighted to be proffered a handsome blade of mutton of about 1.3kg. The blade is from the sheep’s shoulder comprising part of the scapula and ‘arm’ bone. This bone, depending on the length you get will contain some excellent marrow too. I first cut off just over a third of the joint for the freezer. This will be used another time for a dry Sri Lankan curry called mutton fry. For now I was keen to do something with a bowl full of delicious bright red apples my parents brought us down from the garden of the house I grew up in, in the middle of London. Sweet and tart, like a cox but more crisp.
Mutton and apples ready for the roaster
We got the Ironheart going mid-Afternoon and while the oven was getting up to temperature I prepared the meat:
1. Mutton of about 1kg. Score the skin and the fat with a sharp knife in criss-cross pattern (do not pierce the flesh).
2. To make an edible trivet for the joint, scatter in the base of an enamel or cast iron roaster/casserole add:
- 2 small onions cubed
- 3 medium red, firm fleshed apples
- season with salt and pepper
3. Insert slices of garlic (I used Cornish Smokehouse garlic) liberally into the slits.
4. Insert roughly chopped fresh sage leaves into the slits.
5. Season with salt and pepper and cover with lid.
6. If you like onions, place a whole, peeled onion in the pot, it will bake beautifully.
Mutton requires long slow cooking or pressurised cooking, steaming or boiling in order for the flesh to become tender. If you are roasting it in a range cooker place it in the hot oven for three hours or a cooler oven for more. Remember that you want the entire layer of fat at the top to render out and moisturise the meat so a good blast of heat at the beginning is a good idea. A tight fitting, heavy lid will also ensure all the moisture is retained. I did this in an enamel poultry roaster as I haven’t yet procured a cast iron casserole. The result was excellent but I would try this again in a heavier pot for an even better result. If you are roasting in a conventional oven, go for a medium temperature or gas mark for 3 hours and then test for tenderness. In an electric oven be sure you roast in a really heavy pot with a thick lid as more water escapes from cooking in an electric oven than in other types.
Mutton prepared for the oven
The Esse Ironheart is a multi-fuel stove, range cooker and boiler rolled into one. We fired it on wood and kept the oven between the Hot and Very Hot setting throughout cooking.
The mutton will be ready when it pulls away easily from the bone. You must let it rest for at least 20-30 mins in a warm place before carving. Keep the lid on the pot.
In the meantime cook your veg.
I boiled and mashed half a small pumpkin, kindly given to us by our neighbour. A couple of knobs of butter, seasoning and a grate or two of nutmeg. And simple roast potatoes. The mutton with the apples and onion will provide a thin but luxurious gravy. The apples bring out the natural sweetness of the mutton and the smoked garlic was so good that it stood up to all that roasting and intensified the heady aromas of the roasted meat.
Remember to heat your plates before serving as lamb and mutton fat will congeal quickly on a cold surface.
Carving the mutton after resting
Eat, and then have second helpings. We had enough left over for sandwiches or something else this coming week. While shredding every last morsel off the bone I enjoyed the cook’s treat of the roasted marrow from the bone. Yum!