14 Pro Tips For Making The Most Of Spring Lamb | SLMan
14 Pro Tips For Making The Most Of Spring Lamb
©DARREN MUIR/STOCKSY UNITED
Lamb season has officially begun, and one of the best ways to enjoy this sweet, tender meat and its delicate flavour is by cooking it low and slow. Ahead of Easter weekend, we asked 14 top chefs to show us how they make the most of this seasonal ingredient at home.

James Cochran, 12:51

Brine your lamb before cooking for a tender and delicious roast. Put the lamb into a non-metal container with a lid. Mix 100g of salt and 1 litre of water until the salt is dissolved. Add spices and herbs – I like a mix of thyme, rosemary, mint and garlic but you can change it up to fit your personal taste. Then just pour it over the lamb, put the lid on and place in the fridge to brine for six hours. Make sure you rinse the lamb off to remove excess salt and pat dry before cooking.

Instead of traditional mint sauce, give salsa verde a try – it has a lot of depth to it. A shoulder of lamb is going to be really nice and rich, so you want something to cut through it. Usually with a classic salsa verde you’d use parsley, but mint and lamb go so well together it would be silly to ignore. Combine grated garlic cloves, shallots, the zest of a lemon, capers, chopped mint, salt and a bit of vegetable oil. Mix it all together to give a zesty, fresh twist on your roast lamb side.

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Jeff Baker, Farmison & Co

Spring lamb is one of the great British treats. The tender cuts from the saddle, with the delicate covering of fat, make for perfect grilled lamb cutlets and chops. Simply rub them with a little fresh rosemary and olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and grill them for a few minutes each side. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and some simple new-season asparagus. For the larger cuts, such as the shoulder and leg joints, I love to rub these in North African spices such as ras al hanout, garlic and olive oil before slow-roasting for four to five hours until meltingly tender. I serve these with minted couscous salad and a dollop of harissa for heat.

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James Donnelly, Donnelly’s

The arrival of spring lamb is a sure sign that the chef’s favourite season has begun. All the new-season veg is light and crisp but packed full of flavour – served alongside delicate lamb, it’s a match made in heaven. My favourite ways of cooking the meat include braised spring lamb neck in a mint and spring vegetable broth, served with straw potatoes; or roast spring lamb rump with garlic sauce and an English asparagus pancake – a thin pancake made with béchamel sauce, chives and asparagus, all rolled up and baked.

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Peter Joseph, Kahani

One of the best dishes is oven-roasted lamb shanks with whole cinnamon and cardamom, browned onions, garlic and puréed tomato – which you can slow-cook for two hours. Spring lamb is also delicious in the much-loved biryani: simply simmer diced lamb with tomato, yoghurt, fresh mint and coriander, and serve with basmati rice.

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Matin Miah, Rudie’s

When people hear jerk, they instantly think chicken – but jerk is just as good with lamb. Spring lamb neck is often underrated: an old-school stew is a winner, especially when it’s slow cooked with scotch bonnet chilli, pimento and thyme. Most people have the essentials of a jerk rub in their kitchen pantry already (garlic, onion, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, sugar, salt and pepper). Just make sure to let it marinate for as long as possible before cooking to get the full flavour.

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Justin Maule, Wild Fig 

Choose a good cut of lamb – either leg or shoulder – and always cook on the bone. When preparing the joint for cooking, cut slashes across the meat to ensure your spice mix and paste is evenly distributed. Add flaked sea salt to your roast before it goes in the oven – it adds to the crust. Put it into a hot oven for the first 25 minutes then add a bit of water, cover the lamb with foil and reduce the temperature, cooking long and slow for another three hours. Keep the skin on the lamb to protect the meat and baste every half an hour. This keeps it nice and succulent.

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Tara Smyth, The Duke’s Head

Shoulder is a delicious and cheaper alternative to a leg of lamb. It is also far more forgiving in the cooking process. If you are looking for more depth of flavour, opt for hogget (a lamb is a sheep under a year old, a hogget is 1-2 years old). Speak with your butcher or local farm shop to source the best possible product. A shoulder makes the perfect centrepiece for a Sunday lunch, then the options for alternative dinners and leftovers are limitless: make some flatbreads and serve with yoghurt and a crunchy slaw; or give shepherd’s pie, ragu or curry a go.

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William Deal, Archie’s Food

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Place the lamb into a deep oven tray and pour some olive oil all over, rub it in with your hands and sprinkle liberally with salt and ground black pepper. Then throw in some garlic. Place your lamb in a baking tray on top of a few sprigs of rosemary and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lamb from the oven, before pouring the tin of chopped tomatoes and a bottle of red wine all over the meat. Pour 200ml of water into the baking tray as this helps to stop the wine from reducing too much and the juice from burning. Wrap tin foil over the oven tray and place back in the oven. Turn the oven down to 150°C and let it cook for at least four or five hours. It does not need much attention – it will quite happily cook away to a deliciously soft state. Perfect with some watercress and aioli.

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Jamie Polito, The Cricketers On The Green

Like most things, a little time spent sourcing your ingredients is always worthwhile. Most supermarket lamb lends itself to long, slow cooking but often, while the meat is succulent, the flavour can be lacking unless it is heavily marinated and masked by strong robust spicing. So speak to your local butcher and spend a bit more money – it is definitely worth it. My favourite cut is shoulder, spiked with rosemary, anchovies and garlic, first roasted for caramelisation, then with stock and covered tightly with foil. Gently cook for four hours or so until tender. Serve with gratin dauphinoise, some wild garlic salsa, seasonal greens and roasting gravy, a combination that’s hard to beat.

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Theo Randall, Theo Randall at the InterContinental

Lamb is so easy to prepare and serve. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Trim excess fat from the lamb shoulder. Heat a flameproof casserole and add the oil, then put in the shoulder and sear to brown it on all sides. Take it out of the pan and pour off excess fat. Add six garlic cloves, eight anchovies, a sprig of rosemary, 50g of olives and 250ml of white wine to the casserole and set the shoulder on top. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and place in the oven to cook for 1-1.5 hours until the meat is very tender, basting occasionally. Cook uncovered for the last 10 minutes or so to lightly reduce the cooking juices by about half. Serve the shoulder of lamb with its cooking juices and purple sprouting broccoli, just blanched in boiling salted water and dressed with good olive oil.

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Ben Tish, The Stafford London

Always use lamb shoulder, ideally with the bone in to keep it moist and tender throughout the cooking process. Marinate it in smoked paprika, cumin, red wine vinegar and olive oil for a delicious Moorish take on a classic Sunday roast. I usually roll the BBQ out at Easter and slow cook a shoulder of lamb for a few hours until it’s meltingly tender. I then pull the meat and serve in hot flatbread wraps with aioli, fresh salad and lots of fresh mint – delicious and such little effort required.

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Andrew Green, Ducie Street Warehouse

Spring lamb is by far the best lamb to use, as it’s the most tender and subtle in flavour. I particularly like to use the cannon of lamb – it’s the loin of the animal and is fat free. It’s super quick to cook and offers a point of difference to a traditional roast. My tip is to ask your local butcher for a 6-7oz piece of spring lamb cannon. Dip your cannon into some whisked egg whites to coat it and roll in crushed pistachios. Season well with salt and cracked pepper, then roast in an oven at 180ºC for 6-7 minutes. Allow to rest, then slice. This will give you a perfectly pink piece of lamb with fantastic flavour in a short period of time – and will be by far one of the best pieces of lamb you will taste this spring. 

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Richard Bainbridge, Benedicts 

My favourite cut is shoulder of lamb. My top tip is to keep your lamb in the fridge for 2-3 days on a cooling rack before marinating it, as this allows the air to circulate and intensify the flavour of the lamb. A day before cooking the lamb, marinate it with a classic mixture of rosemary, garlic, cumin, coriander seeds, orange or lemon zest, olive oil and pepper. On the day, slowly roast it at 120ºC for around three hours until it is falling off the bone. 

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