Lamb, hogget and mutton: what to know, when to buy and how to eat
what to know
Lamb, hogget and mutton are some of the most ethical, sustainable choices available for meat eaters. Traditionally, sheep are grazed on land which is not suitable for other agricultural uses – such as rocky hillsides with poor soil – and it makes sense to allow them to roam free. Sheep fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields.
Lamb: a sheep up to 14 months old that hasn’t given birth, most commonly eaten from five months upwards. The meat is tender, with the fillet and rump being the most prized cuts. Traditional roast leg or shoulder will come from an animal this age.
Milk lamb: 2 weeks-3 months old. Soft, tender texture and very subtle flavour.
Spring lamb: 3-7 months old. Tender texture and mild flavour.
Winter lamb: 10-12 months. Widely thought to be the best eating quality.
Hogget: 15 or 16 months old. Darker meat with a richer, stronger flavour than lamb. Lends well to slow cooking, although hogget loin can be quickly pan-fried. The telltale sign of a true hogget are the first two teeth emerging.
Mutton: 2-5 years. Very strong flavour and needs long, slow cooking to tenderise and break down the tougher meat fibres. We recommend asking your butcher how old the mutton is before you buy, to help you know what to expect regarding cooking time, flavour and texture.
Our sheep flocks
We choose pedigree and heritage breeds for their ability to thrive in an organic farming environment and produce super quality, tasting meat. They spend their entire lives out on the lush green pastures of our farm enjoying a 100% grass-fed diet.
Our largest flock, we have over 3,750 Lleyns over our farms. A pedigree pure-breed developed on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, they are known for their quiet nature, excellent white wool and their ability to be prolific mothers.
These longwool sheep are almost shaggy in appearance and are the traditional wool producing sheep of the Cotswolds. We have a very small flock to preserve and maintain the breed in its traditional region.
Traditionally kept on lush, lowland pastures, they are famous for their abundant wool. Queen Victoria would only wear bed socks knitted from Ryeland wool! This breed produces a fantastic quality, flavourful and richly textured meat.
These distinctive, pretty sheep are easily recognised by their pricked black ears and black patches around the eyes and nose. Another pure-breed that we are passionate about preserving at Daylesford, they are flightier than our Lleyns but still make excellent mothers.
Come spring, it’s lambing season at Daylesford and the busiest time of year for our team of shepherds.
From mid-March, when our pedigree herds give birth to the farm’s first lambs, it is all hands on deck. The whole stock team will be on call 24 hours a day for the following month, while our flocks give birth to the next generation. At the peak of the lambing season, up to 150 ewes can give birth in any one day, meaning many new lives to care for.
At Daylesford all of our ewes lamb indoors, having been brought in over Christmas when the weather turns cold and grazing conditions diminish. We use ultrasound scanning to determine which sheep are expecting singles, twins, triplets or quads and then house them in separate lambing pens. This means our shepherds can keep a close eye on them just in case they need a little help.
New lambs are kept inside for 24 hours in maternity pens, to allow them to bond with their mothers and ensure both are healthy before being turned outside. We are lucky at Daylesford, that by running a closed flock — breeding entirely from our own stock — we minimise the risk of disease that might affect our lambs, a huge advantage at this time of year.
The biggest challenge is caring for ewes carrying triplets or quads. Often these lambs will be smaller and slightly weaker than twins or singles, so our shepherds may re-home lambs to ewes without so many mouths to feed.
Bringing our sheep in over the winter also means a well-deserved rest for our pastures, so that the grass is lush and nutritious when our lambs take their first steps into the fields.
We lamb all of our ewes in the spring, later than on many farms, so that they can be entirely fed on grass pasture. We don’t use nitrates or other chemicals to force early grass growth, preferring to lamb later and maximise our chances of a plentiful organic grass supply when our ewes and their new lambs need it most.
when to buy
Although lamb is often eaten at Easter, our own Senior Farms Manager Richard advises the time to eat lamb at its absolute best is in the autumn of the year, once they have had a chance to mature a little, fatten up and develop good flavour.
So this spring, why not try the richer, more mature flavour of hogget or mutton (see guide above) and choose cuts suited to long, slow cooking and braising such as shoulder, neck and shank.
How to eat
Whether for weekend roasts, midweek suppers or spring barbecues, this versatile meat is a true favourite. The tutors at our Cookery School have shared some of their most popular lamb recipes below, and do browse our recipe section for more inspiration.
This traditional hotpot recipe makes the most of our organic lamb or mutton and is a wonderful family meal. We prefer to use mutton when possible, which has a richer flavour than Spring lamb, and lends particularly well to slowly cooked recipes such as this one. We recommend speaking to your butcher and asking about mutton which can be available all year round.
500g lamb or mutton shoulder, diced into 1inch chunks
2 lamb kidneys, sliced & fat removed
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium leek, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1tbsp plain flour
1tsp Worcestershire sauce
450ml lamb stock
1 bay leaf
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½ cm discs
Preheat the oven to 160C
Season the lamb chunks with salt and pepper.
Melt 50g of the butter in a shallow casserole pan and when hot, brown the lamb in batches, removing to a plate. Repeat with the kidneys, also keeping to one side.
Add a little more butter to the casserole pan if needed and return to the heat. Fry the onion, leek and carrot for 8-10 minutes until softened and slightly browned. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring over the heat, before adding the Worcestershire sauce and stock. Return the lamb to the pan along with the bay leaf, stir well and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the sliced potato on top of the hotpot, overlapping the edges to create a pretty pattern. Melt the remaining butter and brush the top of the potato slices generously. Cover the hotpot with foil and place in the oven for 1 ½ hours, until the potatoes are cooked.
Remove the foil and turn the oven up to 190C. Cook for a further 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown. Serve with seasonal vegetables.
BUtterflied leg of lamb with a fennel & Rosemary rub
The combination of fennel seeds, fresh rosemary and thyme in this recipe is the perfect complement to sweet Spring lamb. If you’re able to allow the meat to marinade overnight, the result will be even more succulent and tender. We’ve suggested cooking the lamb on a chargrill and finishing in the oven, but it’s a great dish for the barbecue too. Ask your butcher to butterfly the leg of lamb for you if possible.
For the lamb
1.2kg leg of lamb, boned and butterflied
50g sea salt
35g soft brown sugar
15g mustard powder
15g fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp rosemary leaves
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 lemon, zest
For the grilled red onions
4 red onions
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to180°C
Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and toast the fennel seeds for 2 minutes, or until they release their aroma. Tip into the bowl of a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend until you have a coarse, sandy texture.
Rub the mixture all over the lamb, on both sides. Cover and leave to marinade for an hour, or overnight in the fridge.
To make the herbed yoghurt, simply mix the kefir, yoghurt, herbs and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and keep to one side.
Peel the red onions and slice into wedges, being careful to keep the root end in tact so the wedges hold together. Toss in a little oil and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a chargrill pan until very hot and grill the onions until they have lovely charred lines all over. Place on a baking tray in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes or until tender all the way through. Transfer to a small bowl.
Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and olive oil and pour over the red onions. Toss to coat the onions well and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Turn the oven up to 200°C
To cook the lamb, heat the chargrill pan until almost smoking. Place the lamb onto the grill skin-side down for 8-10 minutes, turn over and cook on the other side for a further 5 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a roasting tin, skin-side down, and roast at the top of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked to your liking. These timings should give you lamb that is still nicely pink in the middle.
Allow the lamb to rest for 10 minutes before carving into thick slices and serving with the grilled red onions and a side salad of shaved fennel or fresh green leaves.
lamb kofte with flatbreads and herbed yoghurt
These delicious kofte make a great weekday supper or summer barbecue dish, especially for children who will love making the flatbreads. We use our Daylesford organic kefir to make the herbed yoghurt dressing which gives a lovely acidity, but if this is difficult to find, natural yoghurt will work well on its own.
For the kofte
3 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 ½ tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp smoked paprika
500g minced lamb
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
Salt and pepper
For the flatbread
150g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For the herbed yoghurt
100ml natural yoghurt
1 tbsp each chopped parsley, chervil and coriander
A squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 170°C
To make the kofte, combine the cumin, coriander, fennel and caraway seeds in a small bowl with the smoked paprika. Spread evenly on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.
Place the lamb mince, onion, garlic and ginger in a mixing bowl along with the toasted spices and a little salt and pepper. Mix together well with your hands, making sure the spices are evenly distributed through the meat.
Shape the mince into 8 long kofte and thread each onto a skewer. Place on a baking sheet or large plate and chill for at least an hour before cooking. To cook, heat a chargrill pan and add a few of the kofte at a time. Cook, turning regularly, until nicely browned and cooked through.
Make the flatbread dough by sieving the flour into a bowl with the salt. Pour on the water and olive oil and mix quickly with a metal spoon. Use your hands to bring the mixture together into a soft dough and knead for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into four and roll each piece out thinly to form a round flatbread. Heat a large frying pan and dry-fry each flatbread for 2 minutes on each side until slightly puffed up and slightly golden brown. Keep to one side covered with a cloth.
For the herbed yoghurt, simply combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well and seasoning with salt and pepper.
Once the kofte and flatbreads are cooked, serve straight away drizzled with the yoghurt dressing and perhaps adding some char-grilled vegetables or pickled onions as we have done here.
SPRING LAMB SHOULDER WITH HASSELBACK POTATOES & HERBED JUS
Highly rewarding in flavour, this recipe offers a chance to savour the often undervalued cut of lamb shoulder. Served with a lighter, herb-infused jus this dish will be a hit with the whole family.
SLOW-COOKED LAMB SHOULDER WITH WHITE BEANS AND SALSA VERDE MAYONNAISE
A lovely, rustic, slow-cooked and warming stew, this dish does involve a little time, but it’s well worth it. Sometimes people think of shoulder of lamb as quite heavy and butch, but this is quite light; the salsa verde mayonnaise gives it a real zing.