Caryn Hibbert

Lambing at Thyme

by Caryn Hibbert The Land 1 Mar 16

Roman Spring Lamb (Ovis Aries - Abbacchio)

It is the time of year for young spring lamb to be on the menu. Tender and delicious it does not require too much cooking. Thyme’s milk-fed lamb with anchovies, sage and rosemary is based on a classic Roman recipe. This is our own English version, fried in rapeseed oil this lamb dish is scented with sage and rosemary and seared at the end of the cooking process with anchovies.

Early spring is difficult for fresh herbs from the garden, but both rosemary and sage are hard herbs that will have survived the winter and can be freshly picked in March and April, still fabulously aromatic. Anchovies are a classic flavour combination for lamb, they won’t taste at all fishy, just add a salty complex depth of flavour to the dish.  We use cold pressed rapeseed oil for frying. It is English, deliciously nutty and has a high smoke point making it the perfect oil for hot heat as well as being healthy, just like olive oil, high in omega 3 and antioxidants. Serve with a simple wet and buttery polenta and either wilted greens or a bitter leaf salad with perhaps the odd dandelion leaf both of which can be picked while weeding the very early spring vegetable gardens.

There are over a billion domesticated sheep worldwide, an extremely important animal for many economies for their meat, wool and milk. Our rare breed Cotswold sheep were bred for their wool and built the industrial wealth of the Cotswolds. Originating from Asia and central Europe they were very visible and prominent parts of the landscape in both India and Africa on my recent visits to both continents. There are nearly 1,500 different breeds of domestic sheep or Ovis Aries; they are remarkably resilient and adaptable, surviving in such diverse landscapes as arid semi-desert grasslands to the cold Scottish highlands.

In some environments, over-grazing can cause problems for native wildlife, spreading disease and increasing the human-wildlife conflict apparent in places such as the Masai Mara. However, they are one of the few domesticated animals that are still almost completely grass fed and are not intensively farmed indoors on high grain diets, ensuring  that grass-fed lamb or indeed young milk-fed lamb is a healthy and sustainable source of meat.

So enjoy your spring lamb and raise a glass to Ovis Aries, our friends at Vin Est recommend Ciello Rosso Nero D'Avola 2014, to accompany this dish. A deeply coloured, medium-bodied, spicy red with aromas of ripe plum, black cherry, perfumed, fresh Nero d'Avola.