Up Your Lamb Game

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Up Your Lamb Game

Words by Mr Mark Sansom | Photography by Ms Carol Sachs

1 April 2015

Among the pleasant things that are brought on by spring are: 1) a little more sunshine, and 2) lots of new things to wear – naturally. But there is also a treat in store for the taste buds: spring lamb. Available from February to June, this particularly tender variety of lamb is a perfect way to celebrate Easter (and not quite so likely to anger the personal trainer as those chocolate eggs).

No matter your level of proficiency in the kitchen or what type of occasion you’re catering for – be it a large family gathering or a more intimate dinner party – you’ll find a dish here to suit, with a host of tips and tricks from some of MR PORTER’s favourite chefs.

The prep-in-advance party pleaser

Mr Martin Morales

Owner and chef at Ceviche in Soho and Andina in Shoreditch, London

Seco de Cabrito: lamb braised in beer with coriander potatoes

Difficulty: 2/5

Serves: 4 people

Ready in: 2 hours

Peruvian food has been the biggest food trend in world cuisine in the past two years and Mr Morales is the man who brought it to London, having quit his job working for Apple’s music division in 2010.

“Easter celebrations are huge in Peru, a week-long festival of marching bands, copious amounts of alcohol, tons of street food, fireworks, food and drink,” he says. “Seco de Cabrito is a very traditional dish from Iquitos in the north of the country and is perfect for a party. It’s inexpensive, takes little preparation, can be served in big quantities and allows you to spend time with your guests while it braises in the oven and whets everyone’s appetite.”


  • 3tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1kg lamb (mixture of leg and shoulder), cut into large chunks
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 amarillo chilli, deseeded and chopped. If you can’t find it at the deli, try a dried habanero chilli
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1 large bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 250ml beer, Peruvian Cusqueña beer ideally, though any premium lager works well
  • 500g new potatoes, peeled
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 250g peas 


“Start by heating the oil in a flameproof casserole dish over a medium heat. Invest in Le Creuset for your cookware: its pans only get better with age. Add the meat, and brown well on all sides. It’s this technique that brings the flavour by caramelising the fat which enriches its cooking liquor. When you think it’s browned, give it another 30 seconds to be sure. Remove it from the dish then add the red onion and sauté for eight minutes before adding the garlic and cooking for a further minute. Return the meat to the casserole dish along with the chilli and cumin. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

“Now for the Peruvian flavour enhancer. Put the coriander and the citrus juice in a food processor or blender and blitz to a paste, adding a little water if it doesn’t want to blend straight away. Add two-thirds of this to the meat, along with the beer. Cover, bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for an hour and a half until the meat is tender. Add the potatoes and red pepper and cook for a further 20 minutes. Add the peas and simmer until they are soft and much of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the remaining coriander mixture and serve it with white rice. For an added Peruvian twist, squeeze in the juice and zest of a lime and a big handful of chopped coriander and stir with a fork.”

The traditional family roast

Mr Jason Atherton

Chef restaurateur at Pollen Street Social and Social Eating House, London; Editon Hotel, New York; Kensington Street Social, Sydney and Esquina, Singapore

Roast leg of lamb with rosemary rub and potato dauphinoise

Difficulty rating: 1/5

Serves: 6-8 people

Ready in: 2 hours

Mr Atherton is credited with bringing the small-plate movement to London in 2011 when he launched Pollen Street Social, now ranked 84 in the world’s best 100 restaurants. There’s nothing small about this Sunday roast, however. “This is a seriously impressive way to present an Easter roast,” he says. “It’s traditionally British in its rosemary-led flavour, but I serve it with dauphinoise potatoes as they work better with the sauce that the dish creates.”


  • 1 leg of lamb, bone in, about 2kg
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled
  • 1 head of broccoli, broken into florets

For the potato dauphinoise:

  • 1.2kg baking potatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 500ml double cream


“Always start with your potatoes. Preheat the oven to 160°C, peel the potatoes and thinly slice. Add the crushed garlic and season with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour two-thirds of the cream over the potatoes and mix well. Layer them in an ovenproof dish and pour over the rest of the cream. Press down the potatoes so the cream reaches the top layer of potatoes. Bake for an hour and remove from the oven then set aside, lightly covered with foil.

“Crank up the oven temperature to 200°C. Place the leg of lamb on a large baking tray. Use a pestle and mortar to crush the garlic cloves and salt to a fine paste. Stir in the chopped rosemary and a splash of olive oil then rub the paste all over the lamb. Pop the tray into the oven and roast for about 1 hour for medium-rare meat (based on a 2kg leg). Remove the lamb from the oven, loosely cover with foil and rest for 20 minutes. Place the carrots in a pan of salted water and boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the florets and blanch for a further minute. Toss the veg through some olive oil and butter.”

The in-laws impresser

Mr Michel Roux Jr

Chef restaurateur at Le Gavroche, London

Roast rack of lamb

Difficulty rating: 3/5

Serves: 4 people

Ready in: 45 minutes

Born into a cooking dynasty holding 10 Michelin stars, the Roux name is revered the world over and Michel Jr has been at the centre of London’s gastronomic boom over the past 20 years. “This dish is all about celebration,” says Mr Roux. “It’s a pricier cut of lamb and the bones poking skyward are real theatre. Always leave a little fat on the new-season lamb rack to enhance the delicate flavour.”


  • 1 rack of lamb, French trimmed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150ml quality stock
  • 50g cold, unsalted butter 


“French-trimming the bones of the rack – cleaning up the rib bones with a super-sharp knife – turns an average dinner table into something really special. Any decent butcher or deli counter will do this for you, but it’s an idea to call in advance to let them know you’re coming so you don’t have to wait. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Start by searing the room-temperature lamb in oil. Rotate the lamb in the fat using tongs. Cook the lamb for two-to-three minutes, until it’s golden brown.

“Add the garlic and thyme, then place in the oven. Cook for 16 minutes for pink (medium), another minute or two for well done. While it’s resting for eight minutes, drain the fat from the pan then add the shallots and cook gently for two minutes. Add the stock and reduce until it’s a syrup-like consistency. Remove the garlic and thyme, then whisk in the cold butter. Carve the lamb at the table and serve with ratatouille and crispy roast potatoes.”

The spicy stew

Mr Atul Kochhar

Chef and restaurateur at Benares in Mayfair, London and the new Sindhu in Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Lucknow lamb shank stew

Difficulty: 2/5

Serves: 4 people

Ready in: 2 hours

As the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star in the UK, Mr Kochhar finds himself at the top of the list for almost every TV channel’s panel when it comes to critiquing sub-continental cuisine. This dish is from the north of India; hugely traditional and packed with more fragrant spices than you can shake a cinnamon stick at.


  • 2-3tbsp mustard oil
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 3 onions, finely sliced
  • 1tbsp each of garlic paste, ginger paste, red chilli powder
  • 150g yoghurt
  • 1tbsp turmeric powder 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3tsbp curry powder
  • 2l stock
  • 100g roasted gram flour (Indian chickpea flour), though plain flour does the job 


“Lamb shank is an inexpensive cut, but the flavour you can extract from it is exceptional. Why? It’s from the part of the animal just below the knee and has a great mix of buttery flavour from the fat, as well as it being a working joint for tender muscle. Start by heating mustard oil in a pot and sauté the shanks for five minutes until light brown. Remove, drain and keep aside. In the same pan, fry the onion until golden for about six minutes. Then add the meat and spice powder, ginger-garlic paste, salt, chilli powder, yoghurt, turmeric powder and bay leaves and sauté for three to four minutes. This spice combination is unique to the Lucknow region of northern India, the home of the biriyani. Add the stock and let the meat cook on a low flame for two hours or ’til tender. Then dissolve the plain flour or gram flour in half a cup water, and pour slowly into the dish, stirring continuously to prevent lumps. Garnish with grated ginger, coriander leaves and green chillies, and serve with naan.”

The fancy pub grub

Mr Mark Sargeant

Chef at Rocksalt in Folkestone, Kent and Plum + Spilt Milk in King’s Cross, London

Lamb Wellington with roasted butternut squash and seasonal greens

Difficulty: 4/5

Serves: 4 people

Ready in: 1 hour

Mr Sargeant was once Mr Gordon Ramsay’s right-hand man at Claridge’s and here he presents a seasonal haute cuisine twist on a traditional beef Wellington. “This dish requires some skill so is one for the more proficient home chef,” he says. “But it’s a dish you get better at each time you make it. You have more margin for error than you would do with a beef Wellington as lamb is more forgiving if you overcook it.”


  • 2 lamb cannons (which come from the flavour-packed loin), trimmed of excess fat and sinew
  • 2tsp English mustard
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 50g salted butter
  • 1 large sprig of fresh thyme
  • 8 slices of Parma ham 5
  • 00g all-butter shop-bought puff pastry
  • 1 handful plain flour for dusting
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten with 1tsp water


“The secret to this dish is a) taking your time and b) using shop-bought pastry. First, season the lamb cannons well, then sear them quickly all over in olive oil for a few minutes in a large pan until browned. While the lamb is still hot, brush with English mustard as the meat pores are open and it drinks up the flavour, then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, blitz the mushrooms in a food processor (pulse-chop them with one-second blasts so they retain a texture rather than turning into mush). Heat the olive oil and the butter in the same pan you used for the lamb and fry the mushrooms on a medium heat with the thyme sprig until there’s no moisture left, otherwise the pastry will go soggy.

“Lay out some clingfilm on your work surface. Place half the Parma ham on the clingfilm. Spread half the mushrooms over the ham, then sit a lamb cannon on it. Use the clingfilm’s edge to draw the Parma ham around the lamb, then roll it into a sausage shape. Repeat this process for the second lamb cannon. Chill the lamb in the fridge while you roll out the pastry to the thickness of a beer bottle top. Unravel the lamb and place in the middle. Egg wash one side of the pastry, then fold the pastry around the lamb and secure it on the egg-washed side.

“You should now have a neat cylinder of pastry with no openings. Glaze all over with more egg yolk and, using the back of a knife, mark the Wellington with long diagonal lines. Chill for 30 minutes then cook in a 200°C oven for 20 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes then carve at the table for added theatre. Serve it with family style plates of simple cabbage (fried in 50g butter for three minutes) and butternut squash that’s been chopped into cubes and roasted in the oven while the Wellington cooks.”

And… the best mint sauce you’ll ever make

The lamb you’ve cooked deserves something better than the preservative-packed jelly in the condiments aisle. This Latin-leaning sauce will bring out the best in any of the above dishes.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 2tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½tsp salt
  • ¼tsp chilli flakes
  • 6tbsp quality extra-virgin olive oil


This is a take on the South American chimichurri sauce that cuts through the fat of the lamb with its citrus, herby notes. Start by placing the garlic in a food processor and pulse several times until chopped. Add the mint and parsley leaves and pulse until finely chopped. (If you’ve not got a food processor then chop everything by hand as finely as you can with your sharpest knife.) Now add the vinegar, salt and chilli flakes to the mint parsley mixture and stir until the salt has dissolved. Stir in the olive oil and chill. It will keep for a week in the fridge.