Roast leg of lamb is an Irish institution, a celebratory centre piece dish worthy of gathering the family together to share at the end of the week. This blushing pink beauty, with lashings of mint sauce or redcurrant jelly, was something I looked forward to as much as the imminent chocolate feast on Easter Sunday – and I still do to this day.
In recent years here in Ireland, home cooks are opening their eyes to the endless possibilities of this versatile and delicious meat and realising that it needn’t be kept for Sundays and special occasions when time is no issue.
There are plenty of cuts of lamb which lend themselves to quick cooking and pack tonnes of flavour, making them perfect for weeknight cooking. Let’s face it, nobody wants to luxuriate over a slow-cooked shank after a long day in the office!
Everyone loves a good lamb chop, but the Tasty Easy Lamb campaign proves that you needn’t stop there when it comes to incorporating lamb into your weekly meal planning. Get creative with mince, lean lamb leg steaks, or seriously simple lamb stir-fry strips or even leftover roast lamb to create a healthy and tasty family meal in mere minutes, with dinner on the table before the familiar groans of “when will dinner be ready” kick in!
Lamb dishes can be rich and indulgent or light and healthy – depending on your mood – and you can weave any number of international influences in to each dish to create a flavour safari of a dinner. With these tempting recipes you’ll see just how adaptable lamb can be in many of your staple midweek dishes.
In the time it takes to boil some penne, you have the makings of a bowl of delicious indulgence with this Lamb and Penne Gratin recipe.
This dish is absolute comfort food heaven, like Mac and Cheese times a thousand with the richness of juicy shredded lamb and a crowning glory of oozing cheddar and mozzarella. Bonus: this recipe includes some sneaky grated courgettes, so the kids will unknowingly get one of their five a day in a dish they’ll be begging you to make every Monday.
Tip: You can make this bowl of goodness with lamb stir fry strips, but minced lamb browned quickly in a pan works well too!
For something a little lighter, grab some lamb fillet steaks, which are naturally lean and perfect for quick searing, for a simple summer main which is perfect for warmer evenings. Lamb is an extremely popular protein in sunny Greece, so this Lamb and Lentil Greek Salad is like a little holiday for your taste buds.
Tins of puy lentils add a heartiness to this light and refreshing salad and cut down on prep time considerably. Lamb and feta are a match made in heaven, naturally a sheep’s milk cheese is a fantastic companion for sweet and tender lamb. With lamb fillet, all you need is a screaming hot pan and a couple of minutes of searing on each side, as this cut is best served blushing pink.
Tip: If you have time, pop your cooked lamb fillet into a bowl with the dressing and finely sliced red onion and allow to marinade for 5-10 minutes – this will make the lamb even juicier when sliced and take the harsh bite out of the raw onion.
If Italian food is your bread and butter, skip the Dolmio day and whip up this seriously simple Lamb Meatballs recipe. Meatballs are the perfect way to elevate a humble packet of mince into something heavenly, and while many stick to beef for this dish, lamb is a richer and more tender alternative and is actually the meat of choice for authentic Sicilian meatballs.
Making your own tomato base from scratch really takes no time at all, and this recipe includes a quick soffrito base of onions, carrot and courgette to make for a really flavourful sauce when you don’t have time to simmer and slow cook. For meatballs like this, lamb mince with a good fat content is essential to ensure they remain juicy.
Tip: Make double as this recipe freezes really well, or re-purpose the meatballs the next day with a crusty baguette and some cheese to make a meatball sub. If you’re not a pasta fan, courgettes make a fantastic pasta replacement (and you already have some on hand for the soffrito) when shaved with a veggie peeler or spiralized and work really well with the rich lamb.
As the weekend approaches, those takeaway cravings start to kick in and for me that usually means curry – I blame a year living in Birmingham! There I learned that lamb is king when it comes to crafting a delicious curry, especially the cheaper tougher cuts like neck which cook down and impart unrivaled flavour into the sauce.
This dish does take an hour or so to tenderize the meat, but it is a hands-off kind of dish that will bubble on the stove top while you get your other jobs done and the flavour looks after itself. The slight sweetness of lamb is complimented beautifully by aromatic fresh cumin and coriander seeds, and I love topping this with plenty of chopped coriander for freshness.
The best part? This Lamb Curry recipe is packed with spinach and thickened with natural yoghurt, so it is far lighter on the waistline than your typical takeaway curry and far easier on the pocket too – what’s not to love?
Tip: Make this a day ahead – start it on Thursday and serve as a Friday fakeaway dinner! Cook according to the recipe, but before adding the spinach and yoghurt, allow to cool and pop in the fridge overnight. This is twice as good the next day, and all you have to do is heat through and add your yoghurt at the last minute – any earlier and it may split.
For more delicious lamb recipes, dinner inspiration and preparation tips visit www.tastyeasylamb.ie.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.
This feature was created for the ‘Lamb – Tasty, Easy, Fun Campaign’, a new campaign launched in association with Bord Bia with co-funding from the EU. Visit www.tastyeasylamb.ie a tasty and fun destination for all things lamb.