Chefs lamb special is
top choice for diners
Turning a problem into an
opportunity is an under-
statement when it comes to
the use of forequarter lamb
at the Angel at Hetton in
the Yorkshire Dales.
Robin Cradock reports
NOT only has chef/proprietor Denis Watkins devised a successful dish using boned and rolled shoulder which has become his best selling lamb dish – last summer it turned into the biggest selling main dish at the inn.
The Angel, Egon Ronay pub food of the year winner, was approached four or five years ago by local farmers James and Simon Butcher who were looking to sell whole lamb carcasses. At that time Mr Watkins wanted only legs and ribs, while the brothers had no alternative markets for the forequarters, so the project foundered.
The total collapse of lamb prices in the autumn of 1998 gave an added impetus to the brothers, and by last summer Mr Watkins and partner John Topham had developed new recipes using the whole of the lamb.
The star in this new menu has been confit of lamb, a boned and rolled shoulder which is cooked in duck fat for four hours, allowed to cool, and then refrigerated so that it can then be re-heated for the restaurant.
* Quick cooking
As Mr Watkins explains: "In a restaurant you have to have meat which can be cooked quickly, as the orders come in. That is no problem with lamb leg joints, ribs and so on. Shoulder normally needs cooking slowly, and at home I would still cook it on the bone, but then it is difficult to carve, and commercially it does not have the "eye appeal" a customer wants.
"Normally I do not like re-heating cooked meat, but that is the nature of a confit, and what we have devised is something that is delicious, the customers like the taste and the look, and it adds value to the farmer, so everyone is happy.
"And in these days when local provenance is so important the fact that we can say we are serving Fleet Farm lamb from half a mile away is brilliant. We are constantly looking for local suppliers, it is what we want, and what the restaurant guides are pushing us towards. I would love to be able to source local vegetables for example; the ideal with leaf veg is to cut it on the morning and serve it that day.
"Our other hotel, the General Tarleton at Ferrenesby near Knaresborough uses this lamb and also gets some other local produce, including asparagus, and strawberries in season and we are looking to expand that."
Whilst both sides are coy on the price issue, Mr Watkins is prepared to concede that he pays the Butchers 10p to 15p a pound more than he would have to pay to his normal wholesale meat supplier, but that includes a premium for the fact that the lamb is hung for six days which "makes a tremendous difference to the lamb we buy."
Not only is Fleet Farm now FABBL accredited it is one of the first sheep farms in the Yorkshire region to be accredited under the RSPCAs Freedom Foods scheme.
As well as supplying Mr Watkinns two Inns, the Butchers supply another hotel locally, do mail order lamb, and are looking for other outlets.
Star dish at the Angel – confit of lamb as devised by Denis Watkins.