Mutton is sheep that is over 2 years old. Well-grown mutton to be one of the finest meats produced on the British isles. While mutton may be difficult to find in your local butcher, it is widely available on the internet. Whatever you choose, shoulder of mutton requires long, slow cooking to bring out the best results. Don’t be put off by the age, 2, 4, 5 yrs it is all good and in my view one of the most ethical meats you can source, based on the age and outdoor lifestyle a sheep lives. The older the best in our house, the flavour and the texture of the meat is amazing, just ask Charles (HRH)!
Ethical plus side, you are eating an animal that has had a longer life, sheep are still kept as grazing animals in a flock so it one of the most naturally farmed animal remaining. Mutton meat might come from a ewe that has been used for breeding or it might be a purpose meat bred slow growing sheep. The latter is the best but we should embrace both.
250g/9oz/1¼ cups salted butter, softened and diced
1 large bunch of oregano or rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
large pinch of salt
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon or generous squeeze of juice
1 x approx 2.5kg / 5½lb shoulder of mutton on the bone
8 banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled and halved
1 x 750ml bottle of red wine
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 140C / 275F / gas mark 1. Put the butter in a food processor. Add the herbs, reserving a little for later, and then the salt, lemon and black pepper. Whizz to a coarse paste – about 20 seconds will do it.
Slather the paste all over the top of the mutton to a thickness of about 5mm / ¼ inch. Put the shallots and garlic in a deep roasting tray and add any remaining herbs. Lay the mutton on top and pour in the wine; the liquid should just be touching the bottom of the meat – if not, top up with water.
Seal the top of the roasting tray with a layer of baking parchment followed by foil. Place the tray in the oven for at least 6 hours (overnight at 100C / 200F / gas mark 1⁄8 works too), or until the mutton is cooked.
Remove the foil and baking parchment and turn the heat up to 200ºC/400ºF/
gas mark 6 to crisp up the crust for 20 minutes. Strain the juices, discarding
the garlic and shallots, reduce a little in a saucepan, uncovered, over a medium heat, season and set aside to use as a gravy.
This is lovely served with braised red cabbage and mustard mashed potatoes.