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.
PGI Welsh Lamb takes its quality and characteristics from a stress-free life grazing on the hills and is famously sweet and tender with delicate flavours.
Sourced from local Welsh farms that adopt best practice regarding animal welfare and production methods, buying Welsh Lamb guarantees the highest quality meal 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 the 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.
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 me and they bring back many happy memories of growing up. I love them. And him.
(Makes about 8–10 fritters)
Heat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
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.
“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 PGI badge with the Welsh Lamb logo, you can be confident that all lambs were born, reared in Wales and processed in an HCC (Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales) approved plant.
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.”
William Lloyd from Machynlleth says customers have been buying cheaper cuts that will go further, so they’ll have more money left in their pockets, yet getting the nutrients and goodness from a quality piece of meat.
"The supply list in my window is a big plus because customers can see the lamb has only travelled four miles, so they are actually helping someone else in the valley," he says.
"Buy a shoulder or half shoulder and put it into the oven at a lower heat with some roasting vegetables and it’ll tell you when it’s ready because you’ll want to get at it."
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 straightaway.
Research the dish you want to create, go online at eatwelshlambandwelshbeef.com/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 Welsh Lamb.
Preheat the oven to 180oC/Gas 4