Revelation at lamb tasting event
Meat from five different sheep breeds was cooked up by expert chef and food writer Jane Baxter, who is a regular columnist for the Guardian newspaper.
Each breed, and the farm from where the animals came from, were presented by the farmers who had produced them. Then cooked samples were handed around to the 30-strong audience, consisting of festival-goers, plus a few farmers and restaurateurs.
The organisers, Nick Miller and Sarah Dickens, run Pen y Wyrlod Farm in Monmouthshire, which is now a certified farm of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association.
They dreamt up the idea of a lamb tasting, when wondering whether lamb from different farms would taste uniquely of that farm, just like wine from different vineyards – where the soil has a big influence on flavour.
Nick and Sarah provided one of their own Black Welsh Mountain sheep for the event. Simon Cutter from Model Farm in Herefordshire, also a certified Pasture for Life farmer, provided a lamb from his ‘Easycare’ breed, which is a Wiltshire horn crossed with a Welsh Mountain.
Three other farms from the area that were not ‘Pasture for Life’ certified, presented their Balwen, Ryeland and Hebridean breeds for scrutiny too.
Not a competition
The event was not a competition, but a panel of expert judges were there to discuss the flavours and tease out further thoughts and comments from the audience.
Different flavours, textures and fat
Russ Carrington, the Executive Secretary of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, who was at the event said:
“The difference in taste and texture was a complete shock to me. We rarely have the opportunity to compare like for like on the same occasion. They all tasted like lamb, but each hit different taste buds, had longer or shorter flavours, and some were more tender than others.”
Jane Baxter commented,
“The difference when cooking and carving was a complete revelation, especially the fat, which varied from slippery white to crispy yellow.”
James Swift, one of the judges from Trealy Farm Charcuterie, concluded,
“Perhaps the differences we experienced are not a result of the breed, but indeed of the soil and pasture from where these animals have been raised – just like wine.”
Nick and Sarah are already planning a similar event for next year’s food festival.