Monday, 25 March 2013

New season Dorset lamb

While lamb and Easter have become as inseparable as fish and chips, spring lamb - a surprisingly delicate meat - is easily (and often) abused with powerful, overwhelming flavours. It's also, with such an early Easter this year, going to be in relatively limited supply; here's how you go about reserving some and how to make the most it.

The only breed that will produce lamb naturally in time for spring meat is the woolly Dorset (above). Our ewes lamb in early December, and so new season lamb feeds almost exclusively on mother's milk, as there are slim pickings on the ground during winter time. As a result it doesn't develop the huge, bold flavours you get with the late summer animals and winter hogget, but instead has a beautifully soft and delicate texture and flavour, which is one of the finest treats of spring.

Where you might otherwise cook lamb with rosemary, garlic, anchovies, capers and peppers, exercise restraint with spring meat and reach for what is in season at this time of year - wild garlic, kale, leeks, spring onions, purple sprouting broccoli and spinach. We're a little bit early for English asparagus and Jersey Royals just yet, but when you spy some, they're a perfect match. If you're looking for something to fill your glass, a good quality white Rioja or a light red such as a gamay would do the trick.

Legs should be served a little pink, while shoulders still need long and slow cooking in order to tenderise. Both benefit from a longish rest, so wrap them in foil and throw over a bath towel (top tip!) to keep the heat in while side dishes are finished and glasses topped up.

Due to the popularity of legs of lamb, you might want to order one in advance. You can place an order by visiting your nearest Ginger Pig shop, or call the farm on 01751 460091, Monday 25th - Thursday 28th March, 9am - 5pm and speak to a member of the head office team. All other cuts should be available, though you can pre-order if there's a something you particularly want to guarantee. If you can, please try not to call your shop to order, as they don't have the facilities to take an order over the phone.

Easter opening hours
Our shops are open as usual, except on Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, when they are all closed (and we'll be having a nice rest!).

Friday, 15 March 2013

Spring chickens

Our Askew Road butcher Tom has been driving to Paris every week for over a year, to deliver beef to a butcher and restaurant and bring back French poultry and Limousin veal. While there are certainly some great British birds to be proud of - and we sell a couple of very fine examples - there's a lot of specialism and variety to be had from French poultry, and we're proud to be one of the few stockists in the country. 

From left to right (excuse the slightly blurry pic!) we've got:
Canette de Barbarie
Neat little Barbarie ducklings which will serve 2-3 people. Full flavoured with a bit of game about them, comparatively lean but incredibly tender if given the right care and attention in the kitchen. Although they roast well, they're absolutely superb pot-roasted; roughly chop some fennel and carrots, and add to a heavy pot with peeled shallots, garlic cloves and a couple of halved plums. Add a couple of bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and star anise, and season with salt and pepper. Add 100ml water, cover and roast at 160°C, basting every half an hour or so, for two hours or until the juices run clear. Serve with rice or potatoes and greens - and as you carve the duck (it should be amazingly tender), remove the skin and pop it in a hot oven for 10 minutes to make duck scratchings.

La pintade de Challans
Or heritage breed guinea fowl to us. They're a slow-growing breed which reach maturity at about 13 weeks - more than twice what some poor chickens are given. They graze and peck at grain, grass and herbage, which you can really taste in the meat. Definitely recommend pot-roasting these as they're quite lean; a few stock vegetables, aromatics and herbs, a large glass of wine (in the pot!) and a slow roast with the lid on. From the Challans region, from farmers who are certified to rear to the exacting standards above.

Poulet fermiere de Landes (top centre, red label)
"Chicken farms of Landes" - another region known for its fantastic approach to poultry rearing, with a Label Rouge stamp of of quality. These birds are a fairly leggy, corn fed variety, producing rich, tender and juicy meat. Again, reared outdoors and slow growing, these chickens have a bit more fat to them than you might expect and benefit from roasting a little lower and slower than you usually would.

Poulet noir du Gers
Another Label Rouge bird, easily recognised by their distinctive black legs and feet. The primary choice in many top French brasseries - a little leaner perhaps than the Landes chicken but still has bags of succulence and flavour. As with all Label Rouge birds, completely free range and matured to a minimum of 81 days (a good twenty days more than some free rangers over here), and hung guts in to make a good, tasty chook.

Just as the name suggests, a little chicken - ideal for one or two people. Roast, pot roast, or poach - a versatile and tasty little bird.

We do sell much more British chicken than French, and - as ever - are committed to the best in British farming. But these offer something a little different and a lot delicious - we hope you'll give one a try over the weekend.