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Spring (lamb) is in the air

A Happy Easter is a perfect lunch with loved ones for Jonny Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft, Southwold

One of the first delights of the growing year in the countryside when it awakes come spring is new season lamb.

In fact we should call it winter lamb as these young sheep were born around Christmastime if not before and are rarely available until April and May.

Whilst young lamb is so tender and sweet, I do personally prefer the richer taste and texture of hogget, which is from the previous season’s lambs and cooks up just as succulent. Mutton is well worth trying too, it takes careful cooking and is a stronger flavour.

But for Easter, a leg of new season spring lamb if you can find it, is a real treat.

Sheep play a big part in our rural Suffolk landscape, the undulating lush arable fields, dotted with copse, pond and occasional pasture, is incomplete without the Suffolk trinity; namely the statuesque ‘chesnut’-hued Suffolk Punch horse, the beautiful mahogany Suffolk Red Poll cattle and the black-faced Suffolk back-faced sheep.

So for a glorious Easter lunch, Suffolk lamb has to be the perfect centrepiece, with a huge variety of tasty joints and cuts for the perfect roast, stew or something fancier. Many good independent butchers will already stock Suffolk lamb as a matter of course but if yours doesn’t, just ask them to source some for you with a little advance notice.

I am sure you know how to roast a fine leg for the perfect Easter family lunch so I thought I would share a favourite weekday supper recipe.

Enjoy, Jonny

Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Owner, The Bell At Sax’, Saxmundham and The Sail Loft in Southwold

The Bell At Sax’, High Street, Saxmundham IP17 1AF

Relaxing neighbourhood restaurant-with-rooms with good food, lounge bar and two dining rooms.

Have you enjoyed our new Sunday Lunch Carvery (just £11.95)…

W: www.thebellatsax.co.uk   T: 01728 602331


The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar and restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients. Find us by Southwold’s dunes near the campsite and lifeboat station. How about booking for our luxurious afternoon tea…
W: www.sailloftsouthwold.uk   T: 01502 725713



Quantities for this recipe are flexible, I have allowed for a family-size deep ovenproof dish, giving four hearty portions. Adjust to suit your chosen dish and number of diners. This is ultimate comfort supper, it needs little accompaniment, perhaps some buttered greens and a warm loaf. NB The slow-cooked lamb is delicious as a base for all manner of other recipes and you could of course use leftovers from your roast joint too.

1 lamb shoulder

Good rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black peppermill

Few thyme sprigs

Few rosemary sprigs

3 fresh or dried bay leaves

1 whole garlic bulb

200ml dry white vermouth

Pre-heat the oven to 150c equivalent. Rub a little oil over the lamb shoulder and brown on all sides in a very hot large frying pan (alternatively place on a pre-heated baking tray in a 220c oven for 20-25 minutes until browned and then turn down to 150c).  Place browned shoulder into a deep roasting tray with herbs, bay and garlic bulb. Carefully heat vermouth in the frying pan until steaming, pour around the lamb and then cover over the roasting tray tightly with foil. Place into the oven and cook for 4 – 6 hours depending on size, until the meat shrinks away from the bones and you can pull them out easily. Remove meat and garlic from tray and allow to cool. Sieve juices and refrigerate in a jug. Once suitably warm to handle, take bones and sinews from the lamb and divide into small bite-size pieces. Squeeze out the flesh from the garlic cloves. Refrigerate lamb meat and garlic.

2 very large potatoes, 1 medium swede, 1 medium squash and 2 large parsnips, all peeled and in large chunks

2 or 3 sticks celery cut into half inch slices

2 large carrots, peeled, halved and in half inch pieces

2 large onions, peeled, quartered and roughly chopped

1 large leek, trimmed and in inch pieces

Good rapeseed oil

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp good redcurrant jelly (such as Tiptree)

1 tbsp Dijon-style mustard

Unsalted butter

Sea salt and black peppermill

Wedge of good local blue cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 190c. In a large lidded saucepan, put the root vegetables on to simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. At at the same time, in a hot sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of lamb fat (taken from the jug of set juices) and fry the celery, carrots, onions and leeks until browning at the edges. Pour in the lamb juices along with the Worcs. sauce, jelly and mustard. Fold together, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add in the lamb meat (you may not need all of it) as well as the garlic flesh and bring back to a simmer. With a slotted spoon, transfer contents of sauté pan to your chosen ovenproof dish and pour in gravy to a third depth of the solids. Drain root vegetables when softened and mash well with lots of butter and seasoning to taste. With a fork, cover the meat mixture well in the dish with the mash but do not push down. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and scatter over crumbled cheese and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until melted.