When I cook with lamb, I always think of the legacy of Valley bound family members behind me.
Not because I came from a family of sheep farmers or anything, we just really liked lamb.
Growing up in the Welsh Valleys, lamb was the favoured, if not the primary, meat choice. From the Lamb Stew that I was practically raised on to the Lamb Sunday Dinner, we were a Welsh family of lamb eaters, regardless of any cliché attachment.
Nowadays, I am a bit gutted that I have not carried through the same habits into the pale light of my maturity. Not for any disdain of the animal, I just tend to reach for beef when I’m stewing up and I will snatch up a bird when I need to roast.
It’s nothing against my lamby roots, it’s just the way it is.
I think I can trace this back to not wanting to tamper too much with the comforts of my youth. You know how you know how to make a bed? But you will also always secretly know that you’ll never make a bed as good as your mam? It’s that.
This is why I won’t make Welsh Cakes. Because my mother regularly makes them and makes them SO much better than me, so why bother (her recipe is here by the way). Why bother doing a Lamb Stew when my mother does it SO much better than me, dumplings and all? (I’m still working on snatching her recipe).
So while I’m not about to be recreating any lamb dishes of my youth, I can’t stop myself sometimes from grabbing the meat and running 100 mph in the opposite direction.
Enter lamb ribs.
These would never have crossed the family table of my youth. My mother would definitely have said they were too fatty, but lamb ribs are a fatty cut and this is something I embrace. I love tactile food, eating with my hands, slurping the glaze from the bone and even using the bare bone to sup up any remaining sauce.
It’s a primal instinct I embrace, don’t judge me.
These ribs will fill your house with the most alluring scent. The glaze in which the ribs cook is sweetly aromatic with a slight whiff of jerk to it and creates the most cheek-sticking experience, they will vanish from the plate as soon as you put them down.
And while I love the idea of these little lamb lollipops, you can definitely substitute the ribs for regular lamb chops. Just get the oven to 200c instead and cook them for 20-25 minutes as opposed to the low and slow approach of ribs.
In terms of a dipping sauce, you needn’t go to the ends of the earth. A bit of jarred mint sauce stirred up into a yogurt is all the fresh gloop you’ll need smothered on these babies.
Preheat your oven to 150c and line a baking tray with some foil. This will catch all the lamb fat that drips off during cooking, making cleaning a hell of a lot easier.
Place a wire rack on top of this foil.
In a bowl, combine the following spices: 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom.
To this squeeze in the juice of 1 lime, shake in 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and grate in 1 garlic clove. Fork everything together to create a rubbly, ebony paste.
Grab your lamb ribs (I used around 12 – 14 of them) and shmush them around in the paste so that they are coated but not sodden in it.
Place the lamb ribs on the wire rack and slip in the oven for an hour and a half in which time the meat will shrink slightly to reveal a little bone poking out. This, dear reader, is your lollipop stick.
While the ribs cook, feel free to throw together your dip. Like I said, it’s nothing more than some jarred mint sauce combined with some coconut yogurt (or regular natural yogurt if you’re without the coconut!)