It’s difficult to judge the general impression people will have of a recipe with the words ‘lamb neck’ in the title. Neck. It shouldn’t sound appetising. But to me, it does. Brought up on traditional Welsh cawl, lamb neck (or scrag end) evokes memories of simple, warming stew lovingly made by either one of my parents. This recipe for Braised Lamb Neck Ragu, though vastly different in flavour, retains that basic feeling. It’s a joy to consume.
Being Welsh, I’ve always looked forward to Easter Sunday, with its promise of a whole roast leg of lamb, served with sweet, seasonal vegetables and a dollop of homemade mint sauce. However, the best part of the whole Easter experience is deciding what to do with the leftover roast lamb, inevitably thrust into the fridge at around 4pm. The answer? A recipe for Leftover Lamb Hotpot.
Lamb is, bar none, the favourite meat of those who consider Wales to be the land of their fathers. It is the quintessential meat and taste of my ancient, proud Celtic nation, which also, as the English would have it, finds itself inhabited solely by ‘sheep-shaggers’ or, to put it more politely, ‘wool-fondlers’. However, as the landscape of New Zealand or the cuisine of Greece suggests, Wales isn’t the only country in the world in which lamb reigns supreme. It is a meat considered by many, including me, to be the perfect balance between flavour and tenderness. Indeed, if you don’t mind my saying so, there are few things which exist on God’s earth as pleasant as the feeling of the freshly braised neck of a young wool-covered ruminant on one’s tongue. Anyway, that’s enough ruminating; too much deep-thought can do catastrophic damage to one’s mind.
Being able to identify and prepare the cheaper cuts of meat is one of the many paths to becoming truly frugal. As my tips section explains, meat is the main culprit behind the lack of frugality these days. Indeed, if you’re going to be excessively carnivorous, you may as well do it economically. Not only this, but the cheaper cuts are often the most flavoursome; lamb bread and pork hand are evidence of this. The reason for their relative lack of expense is the fact that they can often take a while to prepare or cook. Lamb breast is also considered to be too fatty by most people. However, one must remember that the cooking process has the added effect of melting most of the fat present in meat; this makes its use entirely optional.
Is there any finer meat than lamb? If cooked properly, no other meat can match its exquisite taste and texture. Of course, beef has its virtues, but it lacks that little sparkle of flavour that forces me to freely admit that I am a little in love with lamb. Hold the jokes. There is but one problem with the meat of those little sheep; it’s so damn expensive. For instance, cubed leg of lamb comes in at a whopping £13/kg. As such, the only financially viable option is to opt for the far cheaper fillets of lambs neck – roughly £5/kg. Happily, since the neck contains both bone and cartilage it is extremely tasty and succulent. It is almost impossible to over-rate the impact of bone marrow on a dish such as this.
Hello! I'm Nick, frugal food enthusiast and curator of frugalfeeding, a food blog about eating good, well-sourced food as economically as possible.