2.5 kgmutton bones2 eachonions, carrots, celery stalks, coarsely chopped1garlic head, halved horizontally½ bunchthyme, plus 4 sprigs70 mlolive oil1mutton shoulder (about 1.5kg)1mutton neck (about 1.3kg)3leeks, coarsely chopped80 gmbutter, coarsely chopped750 mldry sherry350 gmmutton backstrap4globe artichokes, trimmed and chokes removed, placed in acidulated water12baby zucchini, tailed1rape, trimmed and best leaves picked1small horseradish root, finely grated, or to taste
Preheat oven to 190C. Roast the mutton bones and trimmings in a roasting pan until coloured and aromatic (40-50 minutes). Transfer to a large saucepan, add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme bunch, cover with water, bring to the boil, then cook over low heat until well flavoured, skimming occasionally (4-5 hours). Strain through a coarse sieve (discard solids), then cook over high heat until reduced by half, or to about 2 litres (40 minutes-1 hour).
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add shoulder and neck, turn occasionally until brown (10 minutes) and set aside. Add leeks and sweat in 20gm butter and 1 tbsp oil, then cook over medium-high heat until translucent (5 minutes). Deglaze pan with sherry and reduce by half (10-20 minutes), then add shoulder, neck and thyme sprigs. Cover with stock and simmer, covered, until the meat starts to fall from the bone (4-5 hours). Cool, then remove meat from sauce and pull meat off the bone. Discard bones, return meat to sauce, season to taste and keep warm.
Meanwhile, bring backstrap to room temperature. Heat about 2 tsp oil in a frying pan over high heat, add backstrap, season to taste, cook over high heat until pink (3-5 minutes each side), transfer to a plate, cover with foil and rest for 5 minutes. Keep warm.
Sauté artichokes and zucchini in remaining butter and remaining oil over high heat until tender (5 minutes), then add rape and a ladleful of mutton sauce, cook until rape is just wilted (1-2 minutes).
Serve mutton with artichokes and zucchini, topped with grated horseradish.
Merino wethers (castrated males) are not well regarded as meat sheep because of their poor yield. However, the meat is fine grained, dark red, full flavoured and great value. You’ll have to order it in so ask your butcher to hang it another week; the flavour and tenderness increase with extra hanging time. Our preference is to use the whole animal. Ask your butcher to remove the backstrap, shoulder and neck fillet, reserving the bones and trimmings for the stock in which the neck and shoulder are braised. Rape and horseradish have a mustardy bite and provide a foil to the full flavour of the jumbuck. The stock is best prepared a day ahead.