I’ve written about great meat from The Blackface Meat Company before, and was excited when they offered me some of their 5 year old mutton to try. Now, mutton does seem to be having a bit of a resurgence, with a well established Mutton Renaissance campaign launched by Prince Charles in 2004, but I hadn’t really cooked with it very often before.
The Blackface mutton comes from sheep that have spent 5 summers on the Scottish hills, eating heather and a huge variety of other plants, all contributing to the flavour. It’s won two gold awards, and is on the tables of some of the country’s finest restaurant.
And yesterday it was on the table here too, converting the diced shoulder into of a Moroccan tagine with prunes. Cooking long and slow is the best way to treat the meat, and certainly it did the trick with this. The meat was beautiful looking from the start, with beautiful seams of fat, which was dry and flaky rather than the sort of wet, flabby fat you get on a more intensively reared animal.
I used Claudia Roden’s recipe from A Middle Eastern Feast, and 500g of shoulder produced enough for the 3 of us. There was nothing left at all, so I take it that everyone liked it. It’s certainly one of those recipes that turns out a great dish for very little effort, especially when you have a primary ingredient this good. Recipe I made as follows:
500g shoulder of mutton, cubed, trimmed of excess of fat
1 1/2 tbsps oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Salt & black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 onion, finely chopped
125g prunes, soaked overnight
1 1/2 tbsps honey, or to taste
Put the meat into a large saucepan, cover with water, then add the oil, ginger, salt and pepper to taste, coriander, cinnamon and the onion.
Bring to the boil, cover the pan, then simmer very gently until the meat is tender and the water has become a rich sauce. Keep checking that the meat is covered with water during the cooking time, reduce the sauce at the end. This took about 2 hours with this meat.
Add the prunes, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Stir in the honey, blending it in well, and cook for another 15 minutes.
I served this with cous cous, cooked properly in the way Claudia outlines in Arabesque, and piled on the meat, poured over the sauce, and then garnished with pan roasted sesame seeds. And watched it rapidly disappear! Declared delicious by MGG and Dr T, I’d certainly be tempted to do this again. Bless the dish with some more vegetables and it would stretch further (or don’t have friends who are as hungry as my family).
A pack of mutton of this size will cost £6.50 currently, and they also offer a half leg at £22 or half racks at £12. Their haggis also comes highly recommended by Hugh FW, the beef is fabulous, and if you need a source of game at the right point in the season, then I’d be seriously tempted to see what they have.
My thanks to the team at Blackface for chance to try this undeservedly under-rated meat. Try putting it on the menu in your home soon.