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.
The internet describes scrag end as ‘the inferior end of a neck of mutton’. And while there is a difference as you progress up – or down – the neck, scrag end is anything but inferior. Middle neck is delicious, succulent even, but what it doesn’t have is that high bone to meat ratio.
Naturally, you might not think much of a high bone to meat ratio, but when you’re braising a piece of meat the rich marrow that bone brings is a great advantage. Happily, scrag end is just about the cheapest cut of lamb available. A kilo of the finest quality scrag end shouldn’t cost you much more than £6.
Braised for at least 2 hours, ideally 4, once your lamb neck ragu is ready the meat should be falling off the bone. Succulent doesn’t seem a strong enough word to describe perfectly cooked lamb neck. The sauce, thickened by the marrow, clings willingly to the pasta and flavouring the dish uniformly throughout.
If you’re looking for a real comfort meal as we move into autumn, one that’s frugal to boot, then this braised lamb neck ragu should be firmly on your radar. And don’t be scared to pick out that chunk of scrag end from your local butcher. Regret will not be felt – my thanks, as usual, to Source (Bristol).
Of course, you may prefer your ragu with beef…
Braised Lamb Neck Ragu
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, mashed
- 1kg lamb neck (scrag end)
- 250ml red wine
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 600g tagliatelle/pappardelle
- parmesan to serve
- Preheat the oven to 170C/150C(fan). Using a large pan or deep tray suitable for the oven, sweat the onions, carrot, celery and garlic in the olive oil.
- Add the lamb and colour well all over. Pour over the wine and tomatoes, add the bay leaves and season generously.
- Cover with a lid or layer of foil and cook for at least 2 hours (4 is best). The meat is ready when falling off the bone.
- Once cooked, strip the meat from the bone and mix through the thickened sauce. Return to the oven.
- Meanwhile, bring the pasta to a boil in plenty of well-salted water. Undercook the pasta by a minute or two, drain and mix through the ragu. Serve immediately, with a little parmesan.
Cost: Lamb, red wine… parmesan. Lamb neck ragu doesn’t sound frugal does it? Yet, it is. Choose your wine carefully, for instance, and you can pick up a genuinely enjoyable bottle for just a few pounds.
All ingredients considered, this ragu shouldn’t set you back much more than £9, and will easily serve 6 generously. That fits within my laws of frugal.