There are many things to love about being in Shropshire, including the glorious countryside.
At this time of year, the rolling hills and green valleys are particularly special as spring comes into full bloom.
One of the most uplifting scenes is the sight of spring lambs playing in their fields. Now, I have to be honest: I hear a sadistic voice inside whenever I drive past a field full of spring lambs.
The devil on my shoulder says: ‘Hmm, delicious, I’d better make a mint sauce’. I don’t suppose I’m the only chef who thinks that!
But spring lamb really is a treat and we should make the most of it for the relatively short period of time it is available.
I think we are blessed in our region for some of the best produce around, including the lamb. Especially being so close to Wales. All of us are within driving distance of the countryside and many of the region’s butchers get supplies from our local farms.
I never understand why more people don’t use butchers local to them. It’s never been more important to know where your food comes from. Recent food scares have proved that. In some cases, people can ask their butcher which farm – or, literally, which field – their lamb came from.
The other day, I was in a supermarket and the meat counter was full of lamb from New Zealand. It just doesn’t make any sense to fly lamb from half way round the world when our local fields are full of them.
The message for me is simple: buy from your local butcher. The meat they sell will be traceable and sourced responsibly.
I’m a big fan of spring lamb because it’s tender and sweet. It’s not the cheapest of meats when it’s at the beginning of the season, but the non-prime cuts, like shoulder and breast are fantastic value and are equally as flavoursome and tender as the prime cuts.
If you’re cooking lamb at home, you could try some classic marriages by pairing it with rosemary, garlic or thyme.
Ingredients that bring out the sweetness of the meat, like fresh garden peas, also make for great combinations.
Spring has sprung – bring out the lamb.