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.
- 2.5 kg mutton bones
- 2 each onions, carrots, celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic head, halved horizontally
- ½ bunch thyme, plus 4 sprigs
- 70 ml olive oil
- 1 mutton shoulder (about 1.5kg)
- 1 mutton neck (about 1.3kg)
- 3 leeks, coarsely chopped
- 80 gm butter, coarsely chopped
- 750 ml dry sherry
- 350 gm mutton backstrap
- 4 globe artichokes, trimmed and chokes removed, placed in acidulated water
- 12 baby zucchini, tailed
- 1 rape, trimmed and best leaves picked
- 1 small horseradish root, finely grated, or to taste
- 1Preheat 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).
- 2Heat 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.
- 3Meanwhile, 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.
- 4Sauté 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).
- 5Serve mutton with artichokes and zucchini, topped with grated horseradish.
Drink Suggestion: The best old Barossa shiraz you can afford. Drink suggestion by Max Allen