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Chef Matt Tebutt and the Wonders of Welsh Lamb

Chef Matt Tebutt and the Wonders of Welsh Lamb
Carol Wilson signs up for Matt Tebutt's Welsh lamb cookery class
 
The village of Nantyderry near Usk in south Wales is home to chef Matt Tebbutt, who has transformed an old stationmaster’s house and former Victorian pub into one of Wales’ destination restaurants.
 
Matt’s menus feature local, organic and seasonal ingredients, notably Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Welsh lamb. PGI applies to foods with an identified geographical origin and registered foods have legal protection against imitation throughout the European Union. The initiative to stop locally produced foods being copied was introduced in 1993.
 
Recently I went to a PGI Welsh Lamb Cookery School hosted by Matt Tebbutt at The Foxhunter.
 
Welsh new season’s lamb is one of the joys of spring.  The tender, succulently sweet flesh is very tasty. An ancient farming tradition throughout Wales produces lamb and mutton, which are used in lots of wonderfully tasty dishes. It’s different from other British lamb due to its unique distinctive flavour and texture, thanks to the native landscape of natural pastures of lush grass, heather and aromatic wild herbs - just the ticket for grazing the country’s 9 million sheep.
 
Matt explained that spring lamb comes mainly from coastal areas and has a mild sweet flavour and tender texture, while autumn lamb which comes from farmland areas has more fat and a fuller flavour.  
 
I sampled lamb dishes that Matt created for his menu at the restaurant.
 
Crisp Breast of Lamb fingers with an anchovy and leek vinaigrette was very tasty, and I’d never have guessed it was made with such an inexpensive cut.
 
Leg of lamb rolled in Dijon mustard and herbs was baked in a salt crust. The crust
Chef Matt Tebutt and the Wonders of Welsh Lamb
isn’t eaten – its purpose is to seal in the moistness and flavour as the lamb cooks. It would make a spectacular centerpiece for an Easter dinner table. Rack of lamb (the most popular dish on Matt’s menu) with braised gem lettuce, peas and wild garlic was sensational.
 
Lamb has a delicate, yet rich flavour. Colour is a good indicator of age whereby the lighter the colour, the younger the meat. Baby lamb should be pale pink and older lamb pinkish-red. The meat should be moist, but not sticky and the fat should be white.
 
It’s important to use the correct cut of meat for the cooking method. As a general rule, more expensive cuts of meat can be roasted, fried or grilled, while cheaper cuts such as shank, shoulder and best end of neck are tougher and need long slow cooking with liquid to bring out their deep flavour and to make them tender.  
 
The Prince of Wales launched the Welsh Lamb club in 2010 and over 60 restaurants have joined. Welsh lamb was also served to world leaders at the G20 summit in London in 2009 and at a special dinner to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.
 
WHOLE LEG OF WELSH LAMB WITH ROSEMARY & PEARS IN PEAR CIDER
 
Ingredients
1.5kg Welsh lamb
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 large sprig rosemary, chopped
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pears, sliced
300ml pear cider
150ml lamb stock
 
Method
Heat the oven to 180°C (160° fan) 350°F gas 4. Place the potato slices, onion, rosemary and seasoning in a large bowl and toss together until fully mixed. Put the mixture into a roasting tin and add the pear slices. Place the lamb leg on top of the vegetables and pour in the cider and stock. Cover with foil and cook for half the cooking time. If you like it medium, its 25 minutes per 450g, plus 25 minutes. If you like it well done, its 30 minutes per 450g, plus 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking for the remaining time. Serve with steamed seasonal vegetables.
 
More recipes and details of which restaurants are in the Welsh Lamb Club are available at http://www.eatwelshlamb.co.uk/
 
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3 April 2014
By: Carol Wilson
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