Hogget. It’s one of those words that requires further investigation isn’t it, like a tantalising little conundrum? ‘What is hogget you ask? Ah well my dear boy, tis a little secret not for your ears, said the kindly headmaster’. Despite sounding like a character from an Enid Blyton book, it is actually a lamb that has blown out the candles on its first birthday cake. And although I had seen it feature in several television programmes and the odd cookbook, and despite a long-held love of lamb and mutton, I’d never tasted it. What is the difference?
So for my 40by40 it had to be in, to both cook and obviously taste this lesser spotted meat. The question was obviously where to get it from. It’s at moments like these that it’s advantageous to get to know your local producers, those protectors of quality and tradition who farm rare breeds, heritage stock, free range and with a deep love of what they do. They don’t even mind getting peed on by the livestock. Well they do, but they tell you about it with a smile. Let me introduce you to Lochbyre Rare Breeds, rare breed pork and sheep farmers from just up the road from me. When I put out the call for hogget they answered with glee. Farming traditional Scottish varieties Soay and Shetland they had a little Soay hogget just ready for slaughter.
I wasn’t sure which cuts to go for, I toyed with hay smoking the saddle but played safe with a rack and shanks. The rack simply seasoned and pan seared then roasted to medium, the shanks forming the basis of my St. Andrew’s Day stew. The flavour is simply a joy. Moist and tender and with a wonderful sweetness with a richness also. A little bit of fat covering giving a little of that wonderful sweet oiliness you get with Scottish lamb that needs to protect itself from the cold. This is a quite delightful meat and with the loving care that they have been reared the cuts I had were top quality and cheaper than most supermarket sausages per kilo. It’s meat like this that excites me so much, going back to real traditional Scottish flavours, farmed by people with a passion. I have a flank in the freezer for my Christmas broth and I will raise a glass to the little Soay that lived so well and provided such flavour.