More to Lamb and Mutton than Meats the Eye

September 1, 2003

3 Min Read
More to Lamb and Mutton than Meats the Eye

When it comes to meat, sometimes you want a little more than chicken or beef. Throughout the world, people enjoy lamb and mutton — savory alternatives with various potential applications.

People often use the terms “lamb” and “mutton” interchangeably, yet they are not the same thing. Lamb comes from a sheep less than one year old, while mutton comes from a sheep more than two years old. Mutton usually has a stronger flavor, a darker color and less-tender flesh than lamb.

In England, lamb is stewed, ground in pies or roasted, and often accompanied by mint sauce. The French enjoy roasted lamb, seasoned with rosemary, thyme and oregano, and lamb stews flavored with bay leaf and bitter orange.

Marinating lamb and mutton with spices creates a fragrant roast. The Spanish and the Portuguese enjoy lamb cooked with wine and paprika. Italians are partial to garlic flavors, while Romanians enjoy tarragon-flavored lamb dishes. Greeks, for whom roasted lamb is a traditional Easter meal, sometimes baste the meat with egg yolks and lemon juice.

In the Middle East, lamb and mutton make good kebabs, are added to bulgar for kibbeh; are cooked with dried apricots, nuts and yogurt to make koresh; or ground and made into patties, called keftas. In Lebanon, awarma is a popular form of salted and preserved lamb. Another dish, called polo, is served with pilaf made with dried apricot, raisins or pomegranate. North Africans mix ground lamb with spices for pastry fillings, or roast it on a spit. Moroccans enjoy lamb tagines with prunes and mint, lamb crochettes, or hearty lamb soup, called harira, to break Ramadan.

In northern India, a blend of exotic influences results in elaborate biryanis, tandooris and curries. Lamb and mutton also make good aromatic fillings when mixed with potatoes, lentils or corn. Other popular North Indian lamb dishes include gosht do pyaza, with sautéed onions; rogan gosht, with yogurt, almonds and cilantro; and methi gosht, made with fenugreek leaves and tomatoes. In southern India, they eat mutton prepared with chilies, tomatoes, lentils, coconut, kari leaves and/or ginger. Peppery curries, hot and sour vindaloos, or ground, spicy keemas are also favorites.

In the Philippines, lamb is roasted or made into soups and stews, such as caldereta. Mutton is popular in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, where it’s savored in spicy soups called sop tulang, as well as in dry, hot curries and satays. In China, mutton and lamb are made into the noted Mongolian hot-pot, or braised with ginger and gingko nuts creating invigorating foods for cold weather.

Lamb also is popular in Latin America. In north Mexico, they prepare it with chiles and spices, wrap it in banana or maguey leaves, and roast it to make barbacoa, pibils, mixiotes or birria. Peruvian and Chilean lamb are roasted and flavored with achiote, garlic, black pepper, oregano and cumin, or added to stews flavored with vegetables, eggs, onions, orange juice and paprika.

Susheela Uhl is president of Horizons Consulting Inc., a Mamaroneck, NY-based food-consulting firm, which develops ethnic, fusion and “new” American products for the U.S. and global markets. Horizons provides market trends, culinary demonstrations and presentations on ethnic foods, spices and seasonings, and technical support. Uhl can be reached via e-mail at [email protected], or by visiting www.SusheelaConsulting.com.

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