Mutton Scrag (Neck)

Or lamb … but mutton’s better!

“My” butcher down the road, bless him, has just started stocking mutton and lamb necks. Guess he saw me coming, sucker that I am for the tastiest bits at the tail ends of the animal ;-P.

Think the cow equivalent, oxtail. The sheep neck (scrag? What a wonderful word!) is the “hard-working” end of the sheep. A cheap and thrifty cut, ugly as sin. An extraordinary package of sinews and tendons; gristle and cartilage, bone and muscle.

Like oxtail, it demands VERY slow and long cooking. Reward? Lots of rich, deep flavour and varied textures.

Options tried so far …

Roasting, slow and whole

Take a whole neck (or, as “my” butcher sells it, two halves) – make knife slashes all over, and stick in slivers of garlic. Lay on a bed of sliced celery, carrot chunks, and sliced onion. Cover with foil, and cook “low and slow” – about 150°C (300°F, Gas Mark 2), for perhaps five hours. Until the rich, juicy meat can be forked off the bone.

Casseroled/Stewed

“My” butcher will happily cut the sheep necks into slices.

Method

  • Brown the neck slices in oil, in a pot. Remove and pop into a casserole dish.
  • Chop some onion, and soften in the meat fat for a few minutes. Add some tomato puree and some water – and deglaze your browning pot; catch all those flavoursome bits stuck to the pot!
  • Pour this over the meat chunks in the casserole dish, and add enough water/stock to cover the meat. Add seasoning, spices, or herbs as you wish.
  • Cover, and pop into a slow oven (150°C, 300°F, Gas Mark 2). Leave to cook, slowly and gently, for 4-5 hours … or even overnight.

Extraordinarily good eating. And so adaptable. It’s all in the seasonings you choose to add?

  • “Ordinary” – a bay leaf or two, salt and pepper, a generous pinch of dried thyme, a few cloves of garlic, and few tomatoes (or a tin!).
  • “Irani” – to serve as decoration for a bed of fine-cooked rice. For 1kg of neck: grind 1 tsp turmeric, 1.5 tsp cumin,
    1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp black pepper in a grinder, and add to the frying onions; also add a large cinnamon stick, 7-8 tbsp tomato puree, and salt.

  • Or for a Mutton Nihari?
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