Pinscar Crag Organic mutton with Irish stew

Ask half a dozen people “in the know” their definition of mutton and you’ll often get six different answers. To many people, mutton’s a tough fatty meat and, without doubt, it can be true. The most tender meat usually comes from the youngest animals because meat is muscle and young animals haven’t worked that hard. So it stands to reason that the older the animal, the harder it’s worked and the tougher the meat. So, if a six year-old female sheep that’s mothered over six different years is used for meat, it’s fairly certain that the meat could be tough. Whether it’s fatty or not depends on whether it was a fat animal. However, a two year-old sheep, properly fed and reared, can have a much better taste than a six month-old lamb and the meat can be just as tender. It depends, amongst other things, on the breed of sheep and the cooking.
Older meat can really deliver superb flavour; particularly when cooked long and slow. Irish stew is a dish that makes use of the traditionally tougher and less popular cuts of meat, such as neck end, which while giving a great flavour, can lack a little sparkle in the visual department. However in the following recipe we use mutton from two year-old organic sheep and we finish the dish off with quickly-seared mutton cutlets or chops which provide a whole new dimension to this traditional dish.
We call it Pinscar Crag on our menu because that’s where we get the mutton from. And I promise you, it’s the best meat I’ve ever tasted – and that’s saying something. So it almost goes without saying, it pays to get the best meat you can afford.
Serves four to six
One mutton or lamb neck
A handful of pearl barley
Three carrots cut into large chunks
Two potatoes – peeled and cut into chunks
Two onions – peeled and diced
½ a swede – peeled and cut into chunks
½ Savoy cabbage – shredded
Three sticks of celery – cut into chunks
A sprig each of thyme and rosemary
A bay leaf
Ten white peppercorns
Salt and freshly-ground white pepper
Two mutton chops per portion.
First, take the neck and simply cover with cold water in a suitable pot. Add the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary sprigs and peppercorns and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for around two hours until the meat can be easily picked from the bone, making sure to skim any fat or impurities from the surface of the liquid. Once cooked, remove the meat from the pan and allow to cool on a plate. Pass the stock through a fine sieve, return to the pan, add all the other ingredients apart from the chops and cook for a further 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, pick the cooked meat from the bone and reserve.  When the vegetables in the pot are tender, simply stir the picked meat back in and adjust the seasoning as necessary with salt and white pepper.
To serve, grill or fry the chops to your liking, preferably a bit pink, and place alongside the stew and eat with some crusty bread.

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