Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen


Lamb in New Clothes

by Kate Heyhoe


Spring is lamb season. At least it used to be. Now, lamb can be a year round feast, but it will always be a longstanding tradition in spring.

Lamb Meat labeled "genuine" lamb or simply "lamb" must come from an animal less than one year old, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Years ago, lamb production peaked in spring, and the term "spring lamb" identified lamb processed between the first Monday in March through the first Monday in October. At other times, consumers were limited to purchasing frozen lamb. Now, with lamb's availability spread over twelve months, the "spring lamb" identity has lost its importance. Tender lamb is available all year, but markets still offer their best prices right now, in spring, as a holdover from the spring lamb tradition.

Being a major livestock source, lamb is commonly served in France, Greece, Ireland, India, and the Middle East. Lamb is not, however, a typical food source in such countries as Korea, Japan, or Cuba. Yet, by replacing beef or pork with lamb in these regional cuisines, you can create some surprisingly tasty dishes.

Domestically raised lamb can be surprisingly sweet and tender in flavor, making it a favorite of gourmet restaurant chefs for rack of lamb and succulent, delicate chops. In some countries, lamb is more strong and intense, which isn't a bad thing. Just think of charcoal-grilled Greek kebabs or fiery Indian rogan josh, and you'll appreciate the intense end of the lamb-flavor spectrum.

Whether hearty or mild in flavor, lamb has an affinity with two main types of seasonings: acid ingredients to contrast its meatiness, and bright, powerful seasonings to balance lamb's distinctive taste. Knowing this, I started playing around with lamb. By mixing it with different cultural flavorprints not normally associated with lamb, I came up with some very pleasant results.

For the most part, simply substitute lamb for beef and you're on the way to an exciting new dish. For instance, Koreans favor beef, especially for their version of barbecue known as bulkogi. When lamb is marinated and cooked over a hot grill instead of beef, the combination of flavors is robust yet refined. My heritage notwithstanding, I sometimes even prefer lamb to beef when it comes to Korean cooking.

Mexican Lamb Fajitas is another twist worth trying. With grilling season approaching, you'll be the hit of the neighborhood when you slice up chile-spiked lamb fajitas instead the same old beef or chicken fare.

And don't forget that a simple weekend supper of hamburgers becomes a succulent treat when made with thick, juicy patties of ground lamb. For a Greek touch, fill the patties with a bit of tangy feta cheese and serve with thick summer tomatoes.


Global Lamb Recipes

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Kate's Global Kitchen for April 2004:
04/02/04     Easter & Passover Special
04/09/04     Lamb in New Clothes
04/16/04     A Russet a Day
04/23/04     Maximum Cheese
04/30/04     Cinco de Mayo: A Fiesta of Tortillas


Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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