Summer Lamb

Neven Maguire - Summer LambLamb may be synonymous with spring but, while tender, the small joints that make it to the Easter table are not a patch on the fuller-flavoured (and better value) meat that comes onto the market later in the season.

The size, texture and flavour of lamb varies depending on the breed and how it has been raised. Broadly this divides into the large lowland lamb and mountain lamb from areas such as Connemara, Kerry and West Waterford, which is just coming into season now and is smaller and leaner, with a distinctive herbal flavour.

Some lamb especially worth seeking out is sold under a regional branding, such as Connemara Hill Lamb ; Comeragh Mountain Lamb ; and Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb ( Lamb from the Blasket Islands and Dingle Peninsula (likened to the speciality pré salé much coveted by the French) is available in limited quantities in season, notably from speciality butcher Jerry Kennedy Butchers in Dingle town, a third generation business with the distinction of having sold bacon and mutton to one of the area’s most famous sons, Antarctic explorer Tom Crean - whose pub The South Pole Inn, is still in business in nearby Annascaul.

According to Bord Bia, recent research has shown that over half of Irish consumers believe that lamb is the tastiest of all of the meats and, to show how easy it is to cook, their summer lamb campaign includes video demonstrations of Neven Maguire cooking some tasty lamb dishes as well as step by step instructions for a range of simple but appealing lamb recipes. The campaign also encourages shoppers to buy this versatile meat with the Bord Bia Quality Mark “to ensure it has been produced to Bord Bia’s highest standards and to know where it comes from”.

Choosing Irish lamb is an easy and enjoyable way to support local business and it seems that a lot of us are doing just that. Commenting in June, James Murphy, Chairman, IFA Sheep Committee said “Recent Kantar research has shown very positive results for lamb sales, with 66% of households buying lamb on a regular basis. Shoppers are also spending over €100 million on lamb which is an increase of 8% compared with this time last year and with summer a key period for lamb sales we are confident that this trend will continue”.

Teresa Brophy, Ireland Markets Manager, Bord Bia, points out that “Lamb is the perfect meat for quick and simple summer recipe ideas. It is ideal for the barbecue and so is a favourite summer time meal with friends and family. We are encouraging consumers to consider all of the ways in which lamb can be cooked and prepared and to enjoy its unique taste, which is said to come about as a result of rainfall which makes the grass sweeter”.

If it’s all down to the rain, this year must be a bumper one for lamb - better get that barbecue under cover!


Lamb Chops with Tomato and Smoked Paprika SauceLamb Chops with Tomato and Smoked Paprika Sauce

Don’t be put off by the fact that this dish involves a marinade, it is actually very quick and easy to make. The sauce would also be delicious with lamb cutlets or lamb steaks. Serves 4

4 sideloin lamb chops, well trimmed


A little olive oil
2 tbsp/30ml chopped fresh oregano leaves or flat leaf parsley
A little salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tomato and Smoked Paprika Sauce
2 tbsp/30ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp/10ml smoked paprika
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp/15ml chopped fresh oregano leaves or flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp/15ml tomato purée
1 tsp/5ml sugar

To serve: Steamed Broccoli and mashed or sautéed potatoes

First, make a marinade by combining the olive oil, oregano leaves, salt and pepper. Brush this mixture over both sides of the lamb chops. Leave to marinate while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan, add in the onion and fry over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes until softened. Then add in the garlic, paprika, chopped tomatoes, herbs, tomato purée, sugar and a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes until the sauce thickens. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

To cook the chops: Heat the barbecue, grill or frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked to your liking. Allow the chops to rest for a minute or two before serving.

Serve: with the Tomato and Smoked Paprika Sauce, steamed broccoli and mashed or sautéed potatoes.

Butterfly Leg of Lamb with Anchovy and Rosemary ToppingButterfly Leg of Lamb with Anchovy and Rosemary Topping

This is an appealing dish for a get-together of family or friends and, although it needs to be started the day before, the actual cooking is simple and quite quick. The anchovies melt away in the cooking, but add great flavour to the topping. Serves 8

1 leg of lamb, 5½-6½ lb/2½-3kg, boned, well trimmed and butterflied


4 cloves garlic, crushed
2oz/50g tin of anchovies
8-10 sprigs of rosemary
4 tbsp/60ml olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash of wine or water

To serve: Green beans tossed with toasted pinenuts and roast or gratin potatoes

To make the topping: Place the garlic, anchovies, leaves from 6 of the rosemary sprigs, olive oil and black pepper in a mini processor and whiz to combine. You can do this with a mortar and pestle if you prefer – mix the garlic and anchovies first, then chop the rosemary leaves finely and add them in along with the olive oil and pepper.

To prepare the lamb: Place the lamb in a large non-metallic dish and rub the mixture all over it. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for 2 hours to allow the flavours to combine. Overnight in the fridge is even better.

To cook: If the lamb has been chilled overnight, bring it back to room temperature. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 220°C (450°F). Then place it skin side up, in a large roasting tin. Scatter the reserved rosemary sprigs over the top. Roast the lamb for 10 minutes, then turn, reduce the temperature to Gas Mark 4, 180°C (350°F) and continue to roast for another 35 minutes. The lamb will be cooked medium at this stage. Remove from the oven, transfer to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

To serve: Add a dash of wine or water to the juices left in the pan. Boil up and serve with the sliced lamb, roast or gratin potatoes and green beans tossed with toasted pinenuts.

The lamb videos and recipes available from include:

· Lamb Chops with Tomato and Smoked Paprika Sauce
· Butterfly Leg of Lamb with Anchovy and Rosemary Topping
· Lamb Casserole with Cinnamon and Courgettes
· Lamb Burgers with Spicy Soured Cream Dressing
· Greek Style Lamb Kebabs with Yoghurt Dressing
· Lamb Cutlets with Fresh Herb Dressing
· Barbecue Lamb Steaks with Spicy Tarragon and Shallot Butter

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