Southdowns lamb crown

This recipe features in the December edition of Hampshire Life magazine with wine matches from The knackered Mother’s Wine Club.

The Southdown breed originates from the native sheep that have roamed the South Downs for many hundreds of years. The breed was developed in the 18th century when flavour was still considered the most important aspect of meat production. This and other traditional breeds, including Hampshire Down, are well worth seeking out, especially as they are mainly grown on small farms with diverse pastures. As well as making life much more pleasant for the sheep, a varied diet of wild herbs, clovers and grasses makes the meat sing with flavour.

I’ve opted for a majestic crown of lamb, as it’s quick to cook, easy to carve and feels really celebratory. I’ve taken my inspiration for the rest of the flavours from the hedgerows that make the landscape of the Southdowns so special.

Serves 4

  • 1 crown of lamb
  • ½ jar wild cherry plum jam
  • 75 g hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
  • Rosemary sprigs to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 240°C (220 fan), gas 8 and put the lamb in a shallow roasting tin.
  2. When the oven has come up to temperature, put in the crown. Use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat, being careful not to touch the bone. Take it out of the oven when it reaches 50°C, which should be about 20 minutes.
  3. Brush the lower half of the crown with jam. Toss the hazelnuts and thyme together, then dip the jammed section of the lamb into the mixture to coat.
  4. Return to the oven until the internal temperature reaches 55°C (about another 5 minutes). Transfer to a serving board, remove the foil and garnish with rosemary.
  5. Carve the crown at the table by removing the string and cutting the lamb into individual lamb chops between the bones

Southdowns producers:

Southdown lamb – Hyden Farm Originals

Clanfield, 02392 632683

Wild cherry plum jam – The Hampshire Jam & Chutney Co.

Winchester, 01962 713553

For more information about the Southdowns breed, visit the Southdowns Sheep Society website.

How to tie a crown of lamb:

  1. Lay two French-trimmed racks of lamb bone-side-up and score a vertical slit in between each bone to allow the racks to bend. Score a horizontal line into the meat along the length of each rack, just below the ends of the bones to help keep the string in place.
  2. Cover an unopened tin can with foil, then wrap the two lamb racks round the can and tie securely with string. Remove the can, then use the piece of foil to cap the bare ends of the bones to stop them from burning.

I love writing the Christmas recipes for Hampshire Life magazine. The inspiration behind this year’s menu came from three distinctive landscapes of the county: the waterways of the River Test; the hills and hedgerows of the South Downs; and the ancient woodlands of the New Forest. To explore the rest of the menu, follow these links:

Test Valley trout ceviche

New Forest roulade

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