There’s some lovely mutton and hogget on butchers’ counters at the moment. One of Borough Market’s butchers, Northfield Farm, hang theirs for 21 days to ‘age’ and tenderise the meat (as oppose to about a week for lamb). The idea being that even from old, sinewy sheep, leaner muscles, like the loin, eat as well as a 7 month old lamb would, just with twice the flavour.
I bought a rack from them for a recent piece I wrote for the Market, and was impressed. Utterly delicious, juicy (check the marbling), and marginally cheaper than lamb. So I thought it worth sharing my preferred technique for cooking this kind of cut (whether mutton, hogget, or lamb), as I find it a consistently successful way to cook lean meat so it’s neither raw in the middle, nor overcooked at the edges – simply pink throughout.
The green sauce is extremely easy and goes super well with rack of mutton. You could use it alongside slow cooked lamb/hogget/mutton breast or shoulder too, or even with something like baked sea bream.
Mutton, cooked as lamb
- 2 x 6 bone racks of mutton
- Plain olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 15g fresh mint leaves
- 30g flat leaf parsley
- 20g tarragon leaves (stripped from the stalk)
- 8 anchovies (approx 20g)
- 15g capers
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 30g lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
- 20g water
- 100g plain olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Make the green sauce first. Weigh out the herbs, then give them a good wash. Roughly chop before putting in a blender, along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend for five minutes, until the sauce is relatively smooth and a vivid shade of green. Check for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as necessary.
I suggest cooking the meat at a relatively low temperature. This has two effects: the first is that you’re unlikely to overcook the meat – which would be criminal. The second, is that cooking the meat slowly allows the marbled mutton meat to gently break down and become perfectly moist.
Cut each rack of mutton in two – so there are 3 bones per portion. Rub the meat with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and the leaves from the thyme leaves. Leave out of the fridge for 45 minutes to come close to room temperature. Set the oven to 120C.
Put a thick bottomed frying pan on a medium-high flame. Place each rack of lamb, skin and fat side down, into the pan as it’s heating up. For the next five minutes, the pan and the lamb will start to warm, then fry, as the mutton fat renders down. When the surface of the fat is crisp and golden, brown the remaining edges of the mutton. The pan will be hot now, so probably 20-30 seconds per side will be plenty. Once all sides are browned, put the frying pan in the oven (if the handle is oven proof – otherwise swap the mutton into a small roasting tray that has been warming in the oven). Start with the mutton skin and fat side up.
After 10 minutes, turn the mutton over onto the skin again. Remove the mutton after another 10 minutes (20 in total). If you have a digital thermometer, the meat should be 55-56C. Rest for 5-6 minutes (this is very important), during which time the temperature will rise a further 4-6C.
Slice into cutlets and serve with mashed potato, the green sauce, and fresh green vegetables.