Scotland’s gently rolling hills are polka dotted with sheep. In areas where wind, rain and gradient makes the ground unsuitable for crops, cattle and sheep thrive. It’s no surprise that Scotland has excellent lamb, and no surprise that local chefs know how to cook it countless ways. Last weekend I was in Glasgow to attend the Scotch Lamb Street Food Festival, a lamb-focused event organised by Scotch Lamb for bloggers and journalists.
Eating and cooking lamb
I’ve always been a fan of lamb. It’s robust flavour stands up well to slow-cooking and the tender flesh is very satisfying. The shank is my favourite cut: it’s easy to cook and adds great flavour and substance to soups and stews.
I brought a friend and we were the first people to arrive at SWG3, a ‘multi-discipline arts facility’ in Glasgow’s West End. We were seated with a pre-lunch snack of braised back fillet with ras el hanout, pomegranate and sultana couscous from Scoop’s Silver Bullet before mid-day. It was lovely. The lamb was as tender as it can be, and the couscous was sweet and fragrant. It made for a very nice combination. We weren’t on our own for very long. The space filled quickly with happy people eating and talking.
To let our pre-lunch ‘snack’ settle we watched a cookery demonstration with Jacqueline O’Donnell (who, I realised, luckily before I charged up to her to say say hi and give her a hug, I know from the television, not from real life). She showed how to make lamb loin with couscous. She used almonds and apricots in the couscous, and added honey glazed sweet potato cooked with lamb stock. The use of lamb stock in the couscous and potatoes gave a lovely flavour. Lamb loin is a versatile cut that cooks quickly compared to shank and neck. The dish Jacqueline made took no more than half an hour. It was the perfect appetiser before we had our next dish.
Next, we tried the barbacoa lamb in soft tacos with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo from Antojito Cantina. That was my companion’s favourite. I probably wouldn’t have thought to put lamb in tacos so it was good to get a reminder that lamb works with pretty much anything, not just mint and rosemary. The sauces were lovely, the tacos silky and the slow-cooked lamb deliciously tender.
Learning to butcher – or eating some more
As well as cookery demonstrations, the day had a master butcher who could talk you through how to bone a leg or shoulder. It was really interesting watching raw recruits wield chainmail gloves and knifes and, from a tentative start, get more and more confident in their boning skills.
Observation is hungry work, so we tried the lamb massaman curry with jasmin rise, Thai prawn crackers, crispy shallots, peanuts and herbs from Pad BKK. It was very tasty. Fragrant rice, the good kind of prawn crackers, the ones that actually taste of prawn, and juicy lamb.
After that we were full beyond full. I feel I should apologise to So La Ti Dough for not trying their slow roasted lamb shoulder with vine tomatoes, rosemary and garlic on focaccia. It looked tremendous (and enormous). I had several So La Ti Dough pizzas in George Square Gardens during the festival and if the lamb was as good, anyone who had it will have been very happy indeed.
About the organisers and vendors
Scotch Lamb is a PGI (Protected Geographic Indication) mark that means that the animal has been born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland. It’s a quality mark that ensures good husbandry, traceability and quality. The organisation works to ensure happy animals and good meat. They have lots of recipes on their website if you need inspiration.
All the street food vendors are part of the street food cartel, a group of Scottish street food vendors and caterers. You’ll find out how to book them or where they’ll pop up next from the website.
If you want to read what people said, and see more photographs from the day (it’s not all of food, I promise), go to Twitter and search for #ScotchKitchen.