Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lamb - A Delicious Sign of Spring!

For most of us across the prairies it has been a long, cold winter and any indications of spring are very welcomed. While there are many hopeful signs of spring – such as no snow on the BBQ, chives popping up through the earth and seeds on sale at the hardware store - one of my favourite signs is when my neighbours start lambing!  That means Easter and spring are just around the corner!
Most Canadian lamb is produced and processed locally; meaning that is fresh and has not earned any Air Miles(tm) before arriving at your door!  According to the Fresh Canadian Lamb Association there are about 13, 500 family sheep farmers across Canada raising over 1 million sheep for the fiber and meat markets.
As for lamb recipes, there is always the classic roasted leg of lamb served with mint jelly. However, lamb cuts actually range from leg of lamb and rack of lamb to chops and roasts to ground and kabobs. I have tried to source a variety of recipes using different cuts of lamb as well as different taste influences from the Middle East, India, Italy and North America. Lamb is enjoyed the world over so why not taste its versatility through internationally inspired flavours.
Fresh and robust herbs and spices such as mint, rosemary, cilantro, cumin, mustard and garlic compliment the earthy, distinct taste of lamb.  While some claim not to like lamb I say find a better recipe as this is the key to creating a dish you will enjoy. Lamb is best served a little pink and hot and definitely not overcooked!  As with all meat using a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure you are cooking to optimize safety and flavour! For lamb, simply insert the thermometer into the meat at its thickest part and when the thermometer read 155°F (68°C), it is just right.

Quick Tips for Preparing Lamb:
  • Fresh lamb meat will be pink and the fat should be white.
  • Lamb chops are small so count on 3 to 4 chops per person.
  • A whole leg of lamb (6 lbs/3 kg) should feed about 8 people.
  • While most lamb cuts should be cooked to 155°F (68°C), ground lamb should be cooked to 160°F (70°C).
  • When grilling a whole lamb rack, cap the rib bones in aluminum foil to prevent burning.
  • Like most meats, lamb benefits from standing time after cooking. Remove larger lamb roasts from the oven when the temperature registers about five degrees lower than the desired degree of doneness. Allow it to stand covered in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes.  During this period, the roast will continue to cook, and the internal temperature may rise as much as five degrees. 
  • This tip applies to all meats: To prevent burning when grilling or frying use a moist marinade that can be drained off before cooking. Dry herbs and rubs can burn easily unless you add oil or other moisture.  Totally dry flavour rubs are best for dry cooking methods such as roasting.
Leg of Lamb with Honey Soy Sauce
This recipe was faxed to me by Sheila Phillips from the Paradise Hill Farm Supply. The recipe was originally from Pearl Donovich of Lethbridge and was published in one of the Alberta Lamb Producers’ recipe booklets. The best recipes always come that way! I love how recipes float from person to person.
6 – 7 lbs leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat 3 – 3.5 kg
1 tsp salt 5 mL
½ tsp pepper 2 mL
1/3 cup honey 75 mL
4 cups water            1 L
6 Tbsp soy sauce 90 mL
  1. Place lamb on shallow rack in roasting pan. Sprinkle on and rub in salt and pepper. Using a pastry brush, coat the whole leg in honey.  Pour in the water, enough to make it ¼ inch deep in the pan.
  2. Roast at 450°F (230°C) for ½ hour. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C) and pour half the soy sauce over the roast.
  3. Roast lamb for a further 35 minutes per pound (approximately 3 – 3 ½ hours. While lamb roasts baste every 30 minutes. At the second basting pour remaining soy sauce over the leg. Cook to an internal temperature of 68 °C (155 °F).
  4. Remove lamb to platter and let stand for a few minutes. Spoon off excess fat from juices and serve as is or thicken with cornstarch or flour.
Source: Alberta Lamb Producers.  Check out their website for more recipes:

photo credit:  Fresh Canadian Lamb

Lamb Burger 
With BBQ season around the corner this is a great way to enjoy lamb!  I sometimes add barbeque sauce to the burger mixture – it adds flavour and moisture to the burger!
1 lb ground lamb 500 g
salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot, chopped
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup breadcrumbs 60 mL
  1. Mix all ingredients with the ground lamb. Make 4 large (or 8 small) patties. Cook on a preheated grill over medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes on each side.
  2. Serve in Kaiser buns with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, thin slices of onion and your choice of condiments.
Source: Fresh Canadian Lamb. Check out their website for more recipes:

Grilled Lamb Chops
This recipe came to me from my neighbours Glenda and Phil Collinge. Glenda loves trying out new recipes and they are both great taste tester when I am experimenting.
¼ cup white wine vinegar 60 mL
2 tsp salt 10 mL
1 tsp minced garlic 5 mL
1 white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp canola oil 30 mL
2 lbs lamb chops 1 kg
  1. Combine all ingredients in a re-sealable plastic bag. Add lamb chops and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Remove lamb chops from marinade. Discard marinade. Grill 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve.
photo credit:
Spiced Lamb Chops with a Spinach Sauce
My friend Raghavan Iyer developed this recipe.  He indicated in the notes that licking your fingers while eating this recipes is perfectly acceptable, in fact, it's the best way to relish every bit of lingering flavour.
To Marinate the Lamb:
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger 15 mL
2 tsp fennel seeds, ground 10 mL
2 tsp ground mustard 10 mL
1 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from green or white pods) 5 mL
1 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne) 5 mL
1 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt 5 mL
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped 8
About 2 1/2 lbs rack of lamb (from ribs), cut into chops (need 18 chops) 1.25 kg
To Cook the Lamb and make the Sauce:
1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 125 mL
2 Tbsp tomato paste 30 mL
1 package (10 oz/about 300g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed (no need to drain) 1
1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt 2 mL
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 125 mL
  1. Thoroughly combine the ginger, fennel, mustard, cardamom, cayenne, salt and garlic in a small-sized bowl, stirring to make a damp (and potent) rub. Coat each lamb chop with a scant teaspoon of this rub on each side, pressing it into the meat. Refrigerate, covered, for a least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of the canola in a large-sized skillet over medium heat. Add half the lamb chops, rub and add to the hot oil and sear each side until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a serving platter. Scrape any spices and oil stuck to the skillet into a small bowl. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil to the same skillet and repeat with the remaining lamb chops. Add the chops to the ones in the serving platter. Cover it with foil to keep warm as you prepare the sauce.
  3. Add the saved browned spices and oil to the skillet along with the onion. Stir-fry the medley to allow the onion to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and let it warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach, including its thawed juices, and salt. Scrape the skillet to loosen up browned bits of spices and tomato paste to deglaze it. Cook the spinach, covered, stirring occasionally until the spinach is olive green and tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the cream into the spinach. Transfer the skillet's contents into a blender and puree until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Spoon a tablespoon (15 mL) of the sauce over each lamb chop and serve.
Yield: 6 (3 chops each).
Source: Cookbook Authour, Raghavan Iyer via

photo credit:

Spiced Lamb Strips with Mint and Cilantro
Combining savory lamb with cumin, coriander, mint, garlic and tomatoes, this recipe combines the best of traditional North American and Middle Eastern lamb preparations. It is perfect for Easter and a great way to use up leftover lamb.
1 lb lamb leg, boned, trimmed and cut into thin strips 500 g
1 tsp cumin 5 mL
1 tsp coriander 5 mL
1 tsp paprika 5 mL
1/4 tsp pepper 1 mL
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp canola oil 20 mL plus 5 mL
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint 15 mL
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro 15 mL
4 whole wheat pitas, warmed
2 cups shredded lettuce 500 mL
8 black olives, chopped
1. In medium bowl, add lamb strips. Mix with cumin, coriander, paprika and pepper.
2. In large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp (15 mL) canola oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, sauté lamb strips 4 - 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Add 1 tsp (5 mL) canola oil to pan and sauté onion for 3-4 minutes or until onion is cooked. Add garlic, tomatoes and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. Add lamb back to pan.
3. Add mint and cilantro and toss with meat and vegetables. Divide mixture between four pitas. Garnish with lettuce and black olives.
Yield: 4 servings.

photo credit:

North African Styled Lamb with Chickpeas and Couscous
This recipe is filled with delicious, exotic flavors that are sure to please the senses.
1 large eggplant, cut into pieces
2 tsp salt 10 mL
1 lb lamb leg, boned, trimmed and cut into thin strips 500 g
1 1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds, crushed 20 mL
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed 2 mL
1 tsp grated nutmeg 5 mL
1/4 tsp black pepper 1 mL
1/2 tsp salt 2 mL
3 Tbsp canola oil 45 mL
1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger 30 mL
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp vinegar 5 mL
6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas
2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley 30 mL
1 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro 15 mL
4 cups cooked couscous 1 L
  1. Place eggplant in colander over sink. Sprinkle with salt and let sit 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, rub lamb strips with mixture of coriander, cumin, nutmeg, pepper and salt.
  3. In large non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil over medium high heat. Sauté lamb strips until cooked through 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Rinse eggplant under cold water and squeeze out excess moisture.
  5. Add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) canola oil to lamb in skillet. Add eggplant to lamb strips and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add jalapeño peppers, ginger, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add vinegar and tomatoes. Cover and let simmer over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking time. Stir in chickpeas. Heat through. Stir in parsley and cilantro. Serve with couscous.
Yield: 8 servings. Serving Size: 1 generous cup (250 mL).
photo credit: Fresh Canadian Lamb

Thought this Shepherd's Pie with Round Lamb and Mushrooms would be the next lamb recipe I try out! Check it out at


  1. Nice two page spread in the Western Producer. As long time lamb producers/eaters this was a real treat. I'll be looking for some summer BBQ lamb recipes in a few months!