World class Border Lamb

4th April 2017 Blogs

In a country where there are more sheep than people, the Scottish Borders can take this statistic to another level – in fact the area has 10 sheep for every person in the Borders!   

With figures like these it will come as no surprise that the area is famous for its ‘Border Lamb’, producing some of the finest quality meat in the whole country and indeed the world.

Sheep have been grazing on the Border hills since the 12th century, yielding wool, milk and meat. While sheep in the Highlands were farmed for subsistence, here in the Lowlands, sheep became an industry with the Border Abbeys building up some of the largest sheep farms in Europe. Powered by the waters of the Teviot, Ettrick, Gala, Jed and Tweed, famous Border mills washed, spun and wove the wool and exported it across the world. Sadly, the mills now import softer fleeces from overseas, and local shepherds now rear sheep to sell as breeding stock and meat.

It has to be said though, that the best lamb does seem to thrive in harsh landscapes where life is by no means easy, think of mountain breeds such as Rough Fell, Welsh Mountain and Cumbrian Herdwick. The pure white Cheviot is a native sheep bred and is common in the Southern Upland valleys of Megget, Tweedsmuir, Teviotdale, Ettrick, Yarrow, Liddesdale and Eskdalemuir. Whilst the horned Scottish Blackface is the epitome of the mountain sheep; tough, intelligent and with a keen sense of survival sheltering in stone circle stells and having the resilience for a life on the hill.

Eating Lamb
The majority of spring lambs are born from March until May and thrive in the summer while their mothers graze on the high pasture. Come late summer, autumn and early winter, the lamb is at its sweetest, perfect for roasting and serving pink, grass or forage fed lamb has a more intense flavour than grain-fed.

A lamb in its second spring and summer (one year plus) becomes a hogg or a hogget and from the third spring onwards, its meat is known as mutton, this stronger tasting meat was once common in Scotland but its popularity has declined and it is now harder to find. Lamb is the most expensive of the three types, and in recent year’s, sheep meat is increasingly only sold as ‘lamb’, stretching the accepted definitions above.

Regardless of this description, lamb is a wonderfully versatile and delicious meat, typical lamb cuts can be found in our butchers shops and farmers markets as follows:

Leg or gigot – Roasted fast and served pink or baked slowly to allow the meat to fall off the bone.

Loin – This is the equivalent cut of lamb to a sirloin of beef. It is an excellent cut for roasting whole with ribs still in and untrimmed fat. The eyes of the loin chops make miniature fillet steaks called noisettes, this is the most delicate cut and perfect just flash fried.

Knuckle or shank – Rich in gelatinous sinew, the knuckle or shank is wonderful with long, slow cooking.

Chump – Where the leg meets the loin, equivalent to a rump of beef, this makes a good little roasting joint on or off the bone.

Rack of lamb – The first eight ribs, beautiful roasted whole or trimmed of fat and backbone and sliced into cutlets.

Flank – The belly or breast, which although fatty, can be rolled up around a dry stuffing to make an economical, slow pot-roast.

Shoulder – Another economical cut for roasting, this has plenty of fat to baste the meat from within.

Neck and Scrag – Neck muscles are constantly working, so the meat is tough and a little sparse. It is tasty though and  filleted neck is good meat for stewing.

As you will see, lamb is one of the most versatile meats to cook and enjoy and there are many health benefits to be had from eating it too. Lamb is a staple in Mediterranean diets, believed to be the world’s healthiest diet.

It is a rich source of protein and vitamins A, B3, B6 and B12 and is rich in minerals including iron, zinc, phosphorous and calcium. Although lamb contains saturated fat, this represents just 35 percent of the total amount and the other 65 percent represents monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat which is a healthier type.

We absolutely love lamb and are proud to feature world class ‘Border Lamb‘ on our menus as often as we possibly can. It is local and sustainable, it is good for you, it is versatile and it is totally delicious. What’s not to like.