sharing recipes from one generation to the next
Twenty years ago, I had never heard of saltbush hogget. Dining at Cheong Liew’s acclaimed restaurant “the Grange” at the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide provided my first unforgettable taste.
By definition hogget is neither lamb nor mutton, lamb being used to describe the meat from a sheep less than 12 months old and mutton meat from a sheep or goat aged 2 years or more. Hogget is from an animal aged 1-2 years.
Saltbush grows prolifically in arid soils on Australian desert margins and is perfect feed for sheep. The saltbush imbues the lean meat with a delicious flavour without gaminess, similar to the highly prized French salt marsh lamb.
Three years ago I chanced upon a butcher in Burra, a small South Australian township north of Adelaide which is fringed by arid sheep grazing land. His sign writing proudly claimed he sold 18month old saltbush fed merino hogget. I bought a few small cuts from him and since then I’ve been on an unsuccessful quest to find meat of a similar taste and quality. When the opportunity arose to plan our route home via Burra, there was no holding me back.
Having absolutely no recollection of the Butcher’s name, address or phone number, just a clear memory of his location, it was impossible to call ahead and place an order.For the record, Cooper’s Butchers can be found at 2 Market Street, Burra, SA 5417, phone 08 88922009
We arrived at 9.30am on Monday morning, two slightly manic women desperate to cram as much meat into especially depleted caravan/car fridges and freezers as possible. Learning that the price for a whole sheep was $7.40 kg we each bought a whole 25kg hogget from the cool room. With a cheerful and obliging smile the sheep were butchered into our preferred cuts and packaged ready for the freezer.
We enjoyed a first class freshly baked homemade Cornish Pastie from a Burra Fresh and coffee in the Antique shop next door while we waited for the butcher to fill our orders. Our coffee conversation centred on recipes to slow roast, braise and grill our prized saltbush hogget.
Two days later, happily back in my well equipped spacious kitchen, I began by making a 3 litres of rich lamb broth by roasting the bones until well caramelized then simmering them for 8 hours with carrots and celery. After straining and chilling the stock, I lifted the raft and fat from the surface, and made some warming roasted garlic, rosemary and potato, hogget shank soup.
Spring may have sprung in southern Australia, but winter is still vying for attention!
Roasted garlic, rosemary and potato, shank soup
1.5 litres rich lamb stock
Tops of 1 whole celery
6 spring onions
1 large lamb or hogget shank, trimmed
2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 whole head of roasted garlic
Put the celery tops, spring onions, roasted garlic cloves and shank into a large pot. Add enough stock to cover the shank. Bring the pot to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 11/2 hours. Remove the shank, then strain the broth and discard the solids. When the shank is cool enough to handle remove all the meat and roughly mince with a knife.
The meat and broth from above
1 cup sliced celery
5 potatoes, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
1/2 cup fresh young peas
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Return the broth to the boil. Add the minced shank meat, celery and diced potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming frequently. Add the peas and cook for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves 6, generously
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