Mutton dressed up like-mutton

I wanted to broach the topic of carving in a Knife Skills class  so I ordered a leg of lamb. Seems simple, but here lies the magic of mistakes as a huge leg of not spring lamb arrived on the counter. It weighed 4.5 kg and was long and large. After my first quizzical response, words like “2 tooth” and “hogget” came to mind, but then I registered, “It’s a leg of mutton!” A first for me, never seen, never cooked but here it was, my time, in my kitchen, under my control.

Luckily for me I had only written a generic recipe with the technical information;

“weight + temp per 500g= cooking time + 20 minutes at 180C ergo 120mins.  That’s a long time but I was just going to go for it. “Those who doubt, are out.” I did drop the temperature on the Combi oven as it is very powerful but if I did it again I would drop the heat even more and extend the time.

Now I could confidently set the timer on the oven and walk away to show some knife skills.

120 minutes later, having completely forgotten the lambasaurus, it was out of the oven. The shank had pulled away, the natural juices dark and viscous, the perfume, heady, sticky, rich. I only had time to throw a piece of foil loosely over the top and walk away.

By the time we came back to the carving of our mutton we had time to discuss it. The farmer student vouched that it was mutton, as he rubbed his hands together and confidently took control of the carving knife, “I haven’t had a leg of mutton since I was a kid” as we watched his barely concealed relish. The others didn’t really know what all the fuss was about but they did after we had carved it.

The flesh inside was still pink, but not the pink of a baby spring lamb or what passes for it. It was a ruddy pink of a farmers’ weathered cheeks. The shank sinew marched halfway up the leg so you could actually see the muscles had been walked on for several years. The farmer and I could hardly keep our fingers off the best morsels so we has to find it in us to share out tastes. Tacky, rich, dark succulent flesh, not dry like game but fatty, sweet but still obviously sheep. And then there was the jus.

The onions had dissolved and the sweetness called out for red wine that we had poured generously into the pan to reduce, and so stretch this vital and precious  fluid to nourish all of our now greedy appetites. Even the big Shiraz couldn’t mask the flavour, it just made it more opulent.


Mutton = 2-5 years