Cooking lamb in two shakes of its tail

Lamb is another thing I miss being in the US. Though you can occasionally find it in supermarkets, it is very expensive and the choice of cuts is limited. I have read that one of the reasons that lamb isn’t as popular a meat in the US as it is in other parts of the world is that during the 19th century when sheep production in the US moved Westward, the sheep farmers came into direct confrontation with the cattle ranchers. These ‘range wars‘ often turned bloody and in the end the cow became ‘king’ of the west. Since then, lamb has never been a popular meat in the US, with production peaking in the 1950s and declining ever since.

Domesticated modern sheep are most likely descended from the Mouflon, a wild sheep. They were breed initially for meat, milk and their skins, but it wasn’t until modern breeds were developed that wool could be mass produced. Unlike modern sheep that can be shorn, ancient sheep had to be plucked for their wool, which was a long time consuming task.

During my recent trip back home, we had to have a roast leg of lamb that my Mother-in-law cooked before coming back to Texas. We bought it at a local farm shop that raises it owns Scottish Blackface lambs. The Scottish Blackface sheep is the most common breed of sheep in the UK because of its ability to thrive in exposed locations, such as the Highlands of Scotland and other moorland areas, and still produce good meat, milk and wool on such marginal pastures. Blackface lamb meat is well known for its distinct flavour and its low levels of fat, which in todays health concious world makes it a great low fat meat.

Scottish Blackface Sheep

Scottish Blackface Sheep

To roast a 2kg (4lb) leg of lamb, first rub the leg with olive oil, salt, black pepper and about about 3 crushed cloves of garlic. Take some fresh rosemary sprigs and push them into slits cut into the leg. Place the leg of lamb onto a roasting tray and cook at 200C (400F) for about 1hr 15mins for pink or 1hr 30mins for more well done. Let the lamb rest for about 15mins, and while it is resting prepare a gravy from the roast drippings.

Roast leg of lamb

Roast leg of lamb

Carve slices and serve with gravy, roasted potatoes, vegetables and mint sauce. As well as the traditional mint sauce you can also try tart jams / sauces such as red currant jam which compliments the lamb perfectly.

Roast lamb


  1. In addition to the “range wars” described in your post, an additional cause for the general lack of availability of lamb in the United States is that per Mark Kurlansky in his book: The Food of a Younger Land sites that during WWII, massive amount of lamb and mutton was purchased by the U.S. Army, freezing much of it and producing terrible tasting meals for the U.S. Servicemen that many of the soldiers vowed never to eat lamb again.

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