Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fat tailed Lamb

I was very excited when Laurie from Hawk Hill Farm contacted me. She raises heritage breeds, which include Tunis sheep. They put fat on their tails and she had read of my search in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes for fat-tailed lamb. Generously she sent me tails from lambs that were pastured and slaughtered at 6 months.

You can see that they, like all tails, have the central bone surrounded by meat and a lot of fat. Well I thought it was a lot of fat, until I read Charles Perry's guest post on Anissa Helou's blog. Anissa, I and Mark from Belly to Bacon have been discussing fat tailed lamb via Twitter. I admit I thought Twitter a waste of time, but it has proved me wrong. There are lots of generous food people out there with answers to your questions. It is immediate and fun. It is just finding the right people to follow. Mark cooked his lamb tails before me, read his blog post. His tails resembled mine, but not the ones Anissa was familiar with from her travels in the Middle East. You can see from her blog they make ours look thin and puny. However if Laurie's lambs were older I am sure they would have put on even more fat on their tails.

The tails were frozen, so I had time to think about how i would cook them. Like Mark I decided to make qawarma. After reading his experience I used my duck rillettes recipe from FAT as a starting point. I took half the tails, about  500g / 17 1/2 ounces, and cut them into sections. It is quite easy to cut between the joints of the tail, then I marinated them overnight in a mixture of garlic, salt, pepper, allspice, thyme, a large piece of lemon zest and something very non-traditional, white wine.

Next day, I put everything in a heavy casserole, and then in a 120C / 250F oven. After 4 hours, much of the fat was rendered and the rest was golden brown. Instead of adding minced lamb, I poured off the rendered fat to cook with and let the pieces of fat and meat cool slightly. Then I removed the bones and chopped the meat and fat together.

I seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne, then added about 1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I packed the mixture into a glass bowl, I had about 250ml / 1 cup and sealed it with a film of that lovely lamb fat I'd saved.

My version of qawarma is sitting in my fridge maturing. My experience of rillettes is that they are always better after a few days, as the flavours blend better. So how to eat it? While lamb tail fat is softer than the internal lamb fat, it is more saturated than duck fat and firmer at room temperature. I am thinking of following Mark's lead and warming it up and serving it with wildly out of season favas. I have some fabulous sheep's milk yoghurt from Ewenity so I won't be making my own, I let you know how it tastes.


Marie-Claire Saint Maux said...

Très intéressant, je vais un mois au Portugal et je vais tacher d'en trouver , merci

Laura@Silkroadgourmet said...

Hi Jennifer:

Looks wonderful! I'm sure it will taste great as well!

Down here on the east coast of the US, it is relatively easy to get tail fat. The best sources are Persian markets that do a good business in Halal meats.

It is also available on line for those not able to access a farm (as you did) or a store via From western China they will ship as little as 1.5 kg of tail fat to the US. The downside, of course, is that the fat is frozen.

As you undoubtedly know, different breeds of fat tail sheep will have radically different fat patterning (its not just the age at sacrifice).

I'll be in Kashgar next month and look forward to seeing the different breeds at the Sunday Bazaar. . .


Jennifer said...

Hi Laura, Do hope you will post some photos of that bazaar. There is a good Persian supermarket in Toronto, full of lamb testicles, but I haven't seen fat-lamb tails. I must ask next time however I am very happy to get mine straight from the farm.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jeniffer,

Great article, thanks. I live in texas and i am not able to find tail fat at all. I have asked maybe a dozen local butchers, all of them said that they do not and will not carry those parts.

You mentioned that you can order it via I have checked the site but all of the orders have like minimum size of a ton or similar. Which supplier you were able to find to order as little as 1.5kg.


Jennifer said...

Hi there,

It was Laura @Silkroadgourmet who suggest I got mine from Laurie at Hawk Hill Farm near Ottawa. (see the first paragraph in this post) You need to find a butcher in an area where there are people of Middle Eastern origin. They love this cut.

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