While many people associate lamb with Easter, it is actually this time of year when the new season's lamb comes to market from the far North. We like to use Native Shetland Lamb PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) from Richard Briggs, a farmer from Weisdale on Shetland. Born in April or May, the lambs are reared and slaughtered on Shetland. Right now, they are at their best.
Native Shetland Lamb PDO has a beautiful flavour. It is sweet, juicy, very tender and quite unique. Its flavour is a combination of the breed; the natural way it is reared and the heather, herbs and flowers which are in its diet. If we want to get technical, we could say that it is so succulent because most of its fat is intramuscular rather than subcutaneous. More succinctly, it is a seasonal delicacy which is not to be missed.
As you know, in the Escargot restaurants, we like to be closely involved with the food we serve. We want to see where it comes from and meet the people who produce it. I have already been up to Richard's farm and would happily visit again.
However, as regular readers of the blog may recall, I am not a huge fan of flying. Putting aside my aversion to planes, it is important that all the staff at the Escargot restaurants understand the importance of provenance.
So, recently, we packed a lunchbox for l'Escargot bleu's Head Chef Tom and put him on a plane up to Shetland to meet Richard and his lambs. Tom went out with Richard to gather the sheep from the hill before they were sent to the abattoir. What struck Tom was how relaxed the animals were. Roaming free on the open hill, they have a good life. There is nothing intensive or industrial about the way they are reared.
Richard does an amazing job producing this lamb. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. There are difficulties. Mainstream commercial lambs weigh in at 18kg-21kg. A pure-bred Shetland carcase usually weighs close to 10kg. They cost the same to process.
A lot of sheep reared on Shetland are sent to the mainland to fatten up or, to use the technical term, to finish. At this point, they lose their PDO status. They lose the terroir, the qualities and characteristics which make it unique.
We serve Richard's Native Shetland Lamb PDO because it is a fantastic meat with a unique flavour and texture. Born, reared and slaughtered on Shetland, it is a product with genuine authenticity. Judging from the feedback we get, our customers appreciate it. We are proud to serve this lamb and happy to support Richard and producers like him. Come and try it. It's on our menus now.