Where did all the mutton go? Does anyone recall eating mutton stew on a cold November evening after coming home from school? Or grilled mutton chops with mushy peas? I can’t say I have any fond memories of eating mushy peas, but mutton chops are something I miss.
Mutton is sheep that is more than two years old, though in my book, it’s at least three. Hogget, which is another type of lamb that has almost completely disappeared, is two years old. So, for a recap: lamb is up to one year old, hogget is two, and mutton is three. A few years ago, Prince Charles founded the Mutton Renaissance Campaign in the UK, to draw attention to the plight of this meat and to try to sharpen its definition. I’m not sure if it’s working.
Up to the second World War, mutton was prized in Ireland and the UK for its texture, flavour and ultimately, for its value. Perhaps it was the acceleration of global trade that led to the demise of hogget and mutton? Does it make any sense that we have freezers full of New Zealand lamb? Is there not enough lamb in Ireland? Mutton will not be easy to source since nearly all sheep are now sold as "lamb" in the supermarkets. Ask your local butcher if they can source it.
How to make mutton chops with roasted celeriac
Celeriac is back with a bang, and I know I will no doubt lament its presence in my kitchen around February, but for now I’m excited. Roasted celeriac complements the flavours of any roasted fish or meat, from turbot to pheasant, and of course mutton.
Peel and cube your celeriac. Place on a roasting tray, and add oil and salt liberally. Scatter a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme over the celeriac and roast at 180 degrees for 20 minutes, until soft.
Season your mutton chops with salt and pan-fry on both sides. Add a knob of butter and a sprig of thyme and baste. Deglaze the pan with a little cider. Add a dash of cream and reduce for a quick sauce.