Despite the sun shining down these last few days, the subtle signs that we’re heading towards autumn are all around us here in Edinburgh – even the number of tourists is starting to dwindle. But far from being saddened by this fact (summer barely showed up at all, there is not a lot to mourn) I am excited. Excited for all the new flavours, for the fruit and the vegetables, for the numerous desserts that there will soon be ample excuse to make (I was recently at my parents’ house, and their tree of cooking apples suggests a bumper crop – so doubtlessly apple recipes will be here in full force soon!).
For now though I’m thinking about sheep. Autumn is – contrary to what many think – a great time for lamb, and this is music to my ears. I am a lamb fan. A little while ago I was at my local farmers’ market and being indecisive about what I wanted for dinner when the (thankfully very patient) lady that runs one of the butcher stalls asked if I’d ever cooked with hogget. I’ve had it, but never cooked it, then all of a sudden I remembered there was a recipe for hogget with broad beans in one of my favourite cookbooks that could easily be adapted.
Hogget, for those not used to the name, is the meat from a sheep that is no longer a lamb but not yet mutton. Its other name – yearling – gives you more of a clue as it tends to be from an animal that’s between a year and two years old. Essentially, it’s a richer, deeper flavour than lamb, with a slightly more ‘earthy’ quality. After confirming my thoughts on cooking it with the lady, I ambled home to find my trusty pot and copy of New Bistro.
You’ve probably never heard of this book, but I love it. I came across it in one of those discount bookshops you see in shopping centres (in this case, a particularly depressing 60s build in Dundee) and thought at a fiver it was worth a punt as I love French cooking. It’s full of bistro-style recipes, as its name suggests, from all over France; broken down into regions so you can see just how their location and produce affects the food that’s eaten.
In this particular instance the recipe is from Provence and whilst normally made with lamb I decided I fancied my luck with the hogget. The other thing I love about this book is that what you make often does look very much like the photos – here’s how close I got.
I really enjoyed the flavours in this dish, it’s perfect for a late summer/early autumn Sunday evening feast, accompanied by a decent glass of wine and tales of the weekend’s adventures. It has a pleasant earthiness and substance to its flavours, well worth thinking about dinner whilst the afternoon is still sunny. Just remember that if you use lamb to have the oven up slightly higher and cook for about 20 minutes less.
Hogget with broad beans and new potatoes
This recipe was originally made with lamb shanks from New Bistro (see above), but was then customised for the hogget. If you are doing it with lamb reduce the cooking time. It serves two.
2 hogget chops
1 red onion
1 garlic clove
200ml white wine
220g new potatoes
200g shelled broad beans
2 tsp chopped mint
2 tbsp crème fraîche
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
Preheat the oven to 170C and put a bit of oil into the bottom of a roasting tin. Add the hogget shanks then season liberally. Roast for about 20 minutes. Slice the onion into wedges, crush the garlic, then put into the tray alongside the lamb with the bay leaves and thyme. Roast for 20 minutes more.
Take the tray out of the oven, into pour the wine and mix it in with the juices, ensuring that they’re all mixed, then add the potatoes and cook for 30 minutes more. Take it out of the oven again and add the beans before cooking for a further 10 minutes.
When the lamb is cooked through, tag it out of the tray and keep it warm. Put the roasting tin on the hob at a medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Stir in the chopped mint and crème fraîche, once completely incorporated serve immediately.