Parma ham, feta cheese, champagne, Parmigiano reggiano, Roquefort cheese, and Connemara hill lamb. So what do these and a select number of other great foods have in common? PGI or protected geographical indication — in other words the lamb reared in exclusive designated areas of Connemara is recognised as being unique, and as such is protected under EU law. The achievement of gaining this unique status is such that Greece has fought a legal battle for the past 20 years to gain this status for Feta cheese. Now that’s something for each and every person in Galway to be proud of. Anyone familiar with Connemara hill lamb will have little difficulty verifying why hill lamb is so special. The lambs tend to mature at a slower rate, which allows the meat develop a deeper, fuller, flavour. Also the diet of the lamb, which includes a distinctive selection of herbs and heathers, adds considerably to the succulent taste and texture of the meat.
Lamb can be an expensive meat, but only if you have a preference for the prime cuts. The leg when roasted is delicious but can be time consuming so tends to be used mainly for Sunday roasts and the like. However there are many cuts of lamb which are great value for money. A well made Irish stew, although slow to cook, when made in quantity is a real winner of a dish. A purist may argue that a real Irish stew simply contains mutton, onions, and potatoes, but I find the extra vegetables add to the dish.
Traditional Irish stew, serves six
1.5 kg shoulder of lamb, diced
4 onions, chopped into medium sized pieces
4 carrots, chopped medium slices
3 leeks, washed well and chopped
4 sticks of celery, chopped
6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large pieces
A sprig of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes into a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, and drain off water. Place aside.
Place the meat into the pot with all the vegetables and herbs apart from the potatoes, allow to boil. When boiling reduce the heat and simmer gently for around one hour.
After an hour add the potatoes and simmer for a further 30 minutes, season and serve.
Simply grilled lamb cutlets
Season the cutlets with salt and pepper. Brush them with a little melted butter. Cook under a preheated grill for around seven minutes on each side. Serve with a simple mint sauce.
Home made mint sauce
25mm balsamic vinegar
25 gram fresh mint, chopped fine
Simply mix the ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved.
Roast leg of lamb
Stud the leg with three or four cloves of garlic and season the meat with salt and black pepper. Cook in a preheated oven on a roasting pan at 220 Centigrade, allowing 22 minutes for each 1kg weight. Allow the lamb stand for 20 minutes before carving; this will cook the lamb pink. For well done lamb reduce the oven to 190 centigrade when placing the lamb into the oven and allow 45 minutes per 1kg of meat plus 20 minutes in total.