Carol Wilson cooks some quality, local meat

The Orkney Islands, grouped in the North Atlantic, off the north coast of Scotland, have an ancient and important tradition of farming. Early settlers cleared almost all the trees and started to farm the land, and today, there are still very few trees on Orkney, but plenty of verdant pastures leading down to sandy beaches. Most of the land is farmed as the fertile landscape, temperate climate and easy pace of island life combine to provide an ideal environment for raising livestock. Unlike Shetland or the Hebrides, there aren’t many crofts and most farming is on small owner-occupied farms.The figures speak for themselves: there are around 19,000 people living on Orkney and about 100,000 cattle and 200,000 sheep!The noticeably different texture and flavour of Orkney lamb, mutton and beef is largely due to the topography, geology and climate of the Orkney Islands which impart particular characteristics to the grass and herbage that provides the main diet of the animals. Small, fine-boned North Ronaldsay sheep produce fine-grained tender dark flavoursome meat. Probably introduced to the islands by the Vikings, these wild sheep live on the rocks of the exposed Atlantic shoreline on the tiny remote island of Ronaldsay and also a few small uninhabited islands. The hardy wild sheep graze on the foreshore, largely on seaweed, which gives their lean low fat meat its distinctive slightly gamey taste with a tang of iodine and the sea. Much prized by gourmets, you’ll find this meat (usually described as lamb rather than mutton) on the menus of restaurants in Orkney and also in top London establishments. The remoteness of the islands and the fact that cattle are fed only on grass and on silage in winter meant that BSE never reached the islands, although the farmers suffered as a result of the overall adverse publicity about British beef. Fortunately, sales quickly recovered and demand for the excellent beef is high.  The Orkney Islands have traditionally been known for the production of high quality beef from cattle born, reared and slaughtered in Orkney. The animals are grass fed, farmed in a clean environment to the highest standards and calves stay with their mothers, suckling, outside in the open air, for a minimum of six months. This rearing period takes place entirely as nature dictates.The Orkney Island Gold brand was established in 1995 and is owned and controlled by Orkney farmers and businessmen who are all shareholders. Cattle and lambs are selected at the farm rather than the auction mart, and the premium quality meat is produced from only the finest animals, matured on the bone for a minimum of 10 days to ensure maximum tenderness and flavour. Complete traceability from farm to customer is guaranteed, along with strict qualification requirements in terms of breed, conformation, fat covering and weight. Only cattle from the defined area may be slaughtered and dressed in accordance with the set specifications in the designated area and every side of beef is accompanied by the name and address of the farmer who produced it. Lamb is available seasonally and carcasses are supplied with certificates with the names and addresses of producers.Orkney Island Gold isn’t sold to supermarkets or multiples, only to independent butchers. The brand now has an impressive list of stockists all over the country including national and regional Top Shop winners and many Q Guild butchers.The proof is in the eating and the meat (beef, lamb and Ronaldsay mutton) are truly the best I’ve ever tasted for both flavour and texture. Visit to find your nearest stockist butcher.Roast beef1.8kg (roughly) joint of sirloin on the bonesalt and pepperRub the meat with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting tin and cook for 15 minutes Gas 9/ 250ºC. Reduce the oven temperature to Gas 5/190ºC/and cook for 12 minutes per 450g for rare meat, 15 minutes per 450g for medium and 20 minutes per 450g for well done meat, basting from time to time with the juices from the tin. Keep warm and allow to rest for about 20 minutes before carving. Serves six.Beef WellingtonMeltingly tender fillet of beef is expensive, but the paté mushroom and onion filling and crisp pastry wrapping stretches this special occasion dish to serve four people generously.450g fillet of beef in one piecesalt and pepper50g butter1 tablespoon oil1 small onion, finely chopped175g mushrooms, finely chopped2 tablespoons brandy2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley110g liver paté350g puff pastrybeaten egg to glazeTrim the fat from the meat and sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and when hot, add the meat and brown it evenly on all sides. Remove from the pan and allow the meat to cool. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook gently until soft but not browned. Stir in the brandy and parsley and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and leave until cold. Roll out the pastry in a rectangle large enough to enclose the meat. Beat the paté until smooth and spread over the top and sides of the meat. Brush the pastry with a little of the beaten egg. Spoon half the mushroom mixture over the pastry and place the beef fillet, paté side down, on top. Spread the remaining paté on the top of the beef, and then spread with the rest of the mushroom mixture. Brush one long side of pastry with beaten egg. Fold the unbrushed side over the beef and fold the second side over and press together to seal. Join the ends of the pastry in a pinched frill and trim any excess. Use the trimmings to make leaves to decorate the pastry. Cut two slits in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape and brush the top with the remaining beaten egg. Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes Gas 8/230ºC, then reduce to Gas 4/180ºC and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Rest for 10 minutes before cutting into thick slices to serve.Roast lamb with Demerara, rosemary and peppercorn crust1.5-2kg leg of lamb2 tablespoons pink, black and green peppercorns, crushed4 tablespoons Demerara sugar1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, lightly crushed2 tablespoons French/Dijon mustardPreheat the oven to Gas 5/190ºC. Using a sharp knife, make about 12 long shallow slits just under the skin of the lamb. Mix the peppercorns, sugar, rosemary and mustard to a paste and spread over the meat, rubbing it well into the slits. Pour about 100 ml/4fl oz water into a roasting tin and put the lamb into the tin. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 11/4-11/2 hours until tender. Remove the foil for the last 20 minutes of cooking time. Remove the lamb to a warm serving plate and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serves four to six.Quick lamb goulash900g boneless lamb25g butter2 teaspoons paprika3 medium onions, chopped2 cloves garlic, chopped2 x 425g tins tomatoes3 tablespoons tomato puree2 tablespoons dark Muscovado sugar1 teaspoon saltsprig of fresh rosemary (optional)300ml natural yoghurt or soured creamCut the lamb into 2.5cm cubes. Melt the butter in a pan and add the paprika, onions and garlic. Add the lamb and stir over a low heat until the meat has browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, salt and rosemary and simmer for 2 hours until the meat is tender. Just before serving, remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly then add the yoghurt or soured cream and stir well. Serve with rice, noodles or jacket potatoes and green salad. Serves six. 

Victoria Roberts BVSC MRCVSEmail the Vet’s forum at:

Disclaimer: The information and advice in this column is given in good faith. However, as the animals in question have not been examined by the author, no liability in respect of diagnosis or application of any treatments is accepted either by the author or by Country Smallholding

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