Although red meat has been on the proverbial chopping block a few times for contributing to health problems such as cancer and heart disease, research has shown that, consumed in moderation, red meat forms an important part of a balanced diet.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), it is healthy to eat between 350g and 500g (cooked weight) of red meat a week. Lamb and Mutton South Africa states that many people in the country suffer from nutrient deficiencies in iron and vitamin A, which can be improved through the consumption of good quality red meat and organ meat.

Lamb and mutton are South African favourites, particularly as a roast or on the braai. While lamb can be expensive, there are a variety of affordable cuts available. Organ meat, in particular, offers an affordable and very healthy alternative to the more expensive cuts.

Meat grading

It is important to understand the red meat grading system summarised in Table 1. Essentially, meat is graded according to the age of the slaughtered animal. It is generally accepted that the younger the animal, the more tender the meat and the older the animal, the more flavoursome the meat. As such, buying C grade meat does not mean you are buying poor quality, it is just an indication of the tenderness of the meat. For example, very young animals are marked as A grade.

Table 1: Red meat grading system.
Grade Roller mark Age of animal
A AAA (Purple) Very young animal
AB ABAB (Green) Young animal
B BBB (Brown) Older animal
C CCC (Red) Old animal

Popular meat cuts

Leg: Leg of lamb is a classic option for special occasions. It is usually kept whole and can be pot roasted with or without the bone.

Chops: Chops can be cut from four different parts of the carcass, namelythe chump, loin, rib and shoulder. These are a favourite on the grill at any braai. Lamb rib chops can also be grilled, but mutton ribs are best braised.

Cubes: Cubed meat comes from various parts of the carcass, including the shoulder, leg, flank, breast and shank.

Rib: Although ribs can be very fatty, they are a real treat on the braai or roasted in the oven.

Loin: Loin is commonly roasted whole in the oven.

Shank: Whole lamb shanks are the ideal cut to impress guests and are usually braised.

Neck: Sliced neck isideal for potjiekos and other braised dishes.It is also sometimes served whole.

Stretching your budget

Lamb and Mutton South Africa shares the following tips to help stretch your budget when buying meat.

  • Buy more affordable cuts such as chump, which are often less tender, but can still be very tasty.
  • Cheaper cuts are best prepared by using moist heat cooking methods such as braising. When cooking stews and potjies, add affordable beans or lentils to stretch your meal and add fibre.
  • Whenever possible, buy meat in bulk to save money. Repack the meat at home and freeze it.
  • Buying offal is also a good way to stretch your budget. It is also high in iron, copper and certain B vitamins. Sheep offal that can be prepared in delicious ways include kidneys, heart, liver, tongue and tail. Traditionally, the head, feet (trotters) and stomach (tripe) are also enjoyed.

Two ways with lamb

Here are two recipes from Lamb and Mutton South Africa – the herb racks of lamb are a sophisticated option for a special occasion, while the individual kidney pies are perfect comfort food.

Herb racks of lamb

Ingredients

4 x 250 g lamb racks (three rib bones each)

3 medium onions, quartered

Fresh origanum sprigs

120ml olive oil

60ml (¼ cup) olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

30ml sesame seeds

60ml chopped fresh origanum

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Layer onions and origanum sprigs in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with half the olive oil.
  3. Mix together the chopped origanum, sesame, garlic and the rest of the olive oil. Spoon the mixture on top of the lamb and press lightly onto racks.
  4. Place lamb on top of the onion and bake in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours, or until medium done. Serve immediately.

Individual kidney pies

Ingredients

45ml oil

500g lamb cubes, cut into 2cm cubes

250g lamb kidneys (about four), cored and coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, sliced

125g button mushrooms, quartered

250ml beef stock

5ml dried mixed herbs

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

30ml cake flour for thickening

200g frozen puff pastry, thawed

Beaten egg and milk to glaze

Sesame seeds for garnishing

Method
  1. Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry lamb cubes until light brown. Add kidneys, onion, garlic and carrots and sauté until soft.
  2. Add mushrooms and fry for a few minutes. Add the stock, herbs, bay leaf and seasoning and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.
  3. Thicken the sauce with a paste of flour and water. Spoon mixture into individual ovenproof dishes or into a large dish and leave to cool slightly.
  4. Roll out pastry on a floured surface to approximately 3mm thick. Cover meat with pastry and trim edges. Make a funnel in the middle of the pastry for steam to escape.
  5. Press the edges with a fork to seal well. Decorate pie and brush with beaten egg and milk. Sprinkle sesame seeds over.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 30 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

Ursula Human, FarmBiz