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North Ronaldsay Mutton by Fred Berkmiller
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Provenance, identity, character and flavour; North Ronaldsay Mutton has it all. ‘Seaweed sheep’, some call it. The meat is lean and has such a distinct gamey taste that it will reward any food lover and its simplicity to cook with will help any novice. 

As a breed, these sheep have made the island of North Ronaldsay their home since 1832. Mutton is less prevalent on menus these days but as lambs the North Ronaldsay flock are too small to kill. 

Mutton was commonly used in classic French cuisine, so I relish the opportunity to use it in my restaurants. When cooked slowly until the meat falls from the bone it is an absolute delight. 

Mutton from the North Ronaldsay flock is so highly regarded it was served to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee. However, due to its isolated location and with a reported number of only 2000 sheep left, the meat’s availability is limited and hard to source. This has earned it a place in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste programme. But I urge you to eat and buy it. It’s a breed on the verge of extinction and part of our heritage; we need to stop it from disappearing.

The sudden closure of Orkney’s abattoir in Kirkwall in January has shocked the local farming community. Shut overnight without any notice, it has affected local farmers who relied on the abattoir as key in their route to market. The closure further hinders the sustainability of the breed. 

Determined to continue sourcing this fantastic meat, I now buy my whole mutton carcasses through my dear friend and producer, Richard Briggs, breeder of Native Shetland Lamb PDO. 

Knowledge and consumption of the North Ronaldsay breed however, has always been highly localised, so we must work together to change this. Ask for it at your local butcher, try it if you see it on the menu; let’s create a demand for this beautiful species. 

North Ronaldsay Mutton should be available online or from a specialist butcher. 

Cassoulet de Mouton with Offal Caillette and Haricot Beans – Serves 4/6

800 grms of mutton shoulder and neck fillet, 1 carrot peeled and diced,  onion diced, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 1 bouquet garni, 2 dsrt spns duck fat, fresh thyme & rosemary, 1 glass of chicken stock

Sear meat in a heavy braising pan or pot (Le Creuset style) with the duck fat until dark gold color, add onion, carrots and garlic and saute for a few mins. Pour in stock, bring to the boil, add bouquet garni and cover.
Slowly braise in oven at 140 degree for 2 hours.
Making the caillettes
400grms mutton offal, heart & liver, 200grms mutton mince shoulder, 1carrot, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 egg, 100 grms cooked spinach leaves, seasoning, pig caul for wrapping.
Mince the meat, offal, carrot, onion, garlic and spinach in the mincer; add egg and season and mix. 
Make balls the size of a medium ladle and wrap in the pig caul. Bake in oven at 180 degrees for 20 mins in a buttered tray and a little chicken stock.

Cooking the beans
500gr haricots beans soaked for 12 hours minimum, 2 carrots peeled and split in two length wise, 2 small onions cut in two, 4/6 cloves garlic, bouquet garni, 2 ltrs chicken stock. 
Soak beans for 12 hours then washed under cold water, cover with chicken stock, add water if needed, bring to the boil and skim at all time getting rid of white foam, then add all the veg and simmer for about 45mm or until cooked but not over done.

To finish the dish, you need a large cast iron pot or terrine dish. Lay your meat at the bottom, add the caillettes, the stock from the meat , pour over the beans , add little chicken stock until just covering the flat surface.... add a few spoon of duck/goose fat .....sprinkle breadcrumbs over and place in a preheat oven at 180 degrees for 30/40 min. Eat straight from the oven when ready.

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