Anna’s Kitchen Notes

The Modern Pantry’s Anna Hansen reveals why lamb is a key part of her Kiwi heritage…

The Modern Pantry’s Anna Hansen reveals why lamb is a key part of her Kiwi heritage…

I grew up in New Zealand in the Seventies and Eighties, then home to three million Kiwis (of the Homo sapiens variety) and 70 million sheep. It was not possible to get through one’s childhood without witnessing or possibly even attempting:

A. The shearing of a sheep. A great national and, yes, international sport at which we Kiwis have been victorious many times.

B. The docking of lambs’ tails. This included graphic descriptions of the aftermath and various ways of serving said tails once they had fallen. This would inevitably be hotly followed by murmurs of disgust from the juvenile audience despite it being common practice at the time.

C. Using or hearing the expression “rattle your dags”. This turn of phrase conjures up some delightful imagery if you know what it refers to, and in slang terms means “you had better get cracking”.

For centuries the lamb has been used as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. This was true even before ‘God’s Own Lamb’ walked the earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and it is considered good luck if a lamb should cross one’s path at Easter. I would happen to agree, particularly if it is a lamb raised on the mineral-rich plants of the salt marshes of Wales. The iodine and mineral-heavy diet of lambs raised on salt marshes means their muscle cells can retain more moisture, resulting in both a superb flavour and a tenderness unrivalled by its mountain or pasture-dwelling cousins.

Like beef, the flavour of lamb develops with age so the meat should be hung for a good week or so before eating. Although the colour of the meat varies according to age and pasture, it should always be bright and moist. The fat should be firm, dry and slightly crumbly. There are several excellent butchers in Clerkenwell and its surrounds where you can expect to find this quality of meat: McKanna Meats in Holborn, Turner & George in St John St, and the Quality Chop House Shop in Farringdon Road.