The ability for Australian lamb to elevate the menu was on full display recently at two events hosted by MediaEdge Communications for the Canadian Gaming Summit.
You’ve already read about Australian lamb’s grassy and mild flavour and tender and lean qualities; about the versatility and quality that it offers; and about its sustainable and ethical production, delivering on the values that are so important to the chefs and the consumers of today.
Earlier this summer, Blain-Anthony Archer catered a VIP reception using Australian lamb at Elephant & Castle in Toronto, where he is a kitchen partner. The following evening, Chef Kazi Shadab did the same at the Delta Hotel Toronto, where he is Executive Sous Chef.
Letting the lamb shine
“Australian lamb only needs basic and quite light seasoning so that the mild taste of the lamb comes through,” says Shadab. “As well as the taste, it’s so tender after cooking; it’s not like some lamb that becomes hard or tough. The texture itself and the quality are so high. You don’t really have to do too much with Australian lamb – just add your ingredients, cook it off, and that’s it. The meat itself creates its own dish, in a way.”
Not wanting to go “too hard” on the ingredients to ensure he let the quality of the lamb shine through, Shadab opted for Australian lamb meatballs seasoned with paprika, garlic, and fresh herbs (pictured at the top of this article).
“I put a lot of paprika, garlic, ginger, thyme, rosemary, and some mint to bring some nice coolness to it, then seasoned with olive oil and baked it off and then used the liquid to make a jus. I had done that before and loved it, and people responded really well too. Guests could not believe the jus was from the lamb itself because the taste was so mild and there was no strong aftertaste. In the end, my dish was finished in about half an hour – everyone was all about the meatballs!”
Over at Elephant & Castle, Archer created two appetizers for the June 7 event: Korean barbecue lamb sliders with a spicy mayonnaise and a Korean slaw spiced with cumin and some other spices, and lamb nachos with pickled red onion, pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, and a spicy ranch sauce and chipotle dip.
“The inspiration behind those dishes was to give people some flavours they had never had before,” Archer explains. “For example, when you hear Korean, you often think of short ribs or pork, but you never really hear of Korean lamb. Lamb, generally speaking, tends to be lamb chops or rack and come served with potatoes or a red wine jus or something like that, so my aim was to be creative and also serve something casual and approachable. The sliders went out and people were asking for more and more. The lamb sliders were the talk of the night, to be honest!
Archer agrees with Shadab that Australian lamb, with its tender and soft texture and mild taste, brings unrivalled quality, taste, and texture to the plate. What also makes it stand out to him, he says, is how quick it is to cook it well.
“I’ve worked with Australian lamb, New Zealand lamb, Canadian lamb, and the thing with Australian lamb is it’s not only a great taste and very refreshing in its mildness, but it’s also pretty quick to whip up a great dish,” he says. “That, obviously, can be very useful.”
Standing out from the crowd
Both chefs say they are seeing more and more chefs and consumers Yes! Recognizing the quality of Australian lamb.
Shadab comes from a cruise ship background, a job in which he used to travel to Australia frequently between 2000 and leaving the cruise chef world in 2010. There, he says he discovered that Australian lamb is unrivalled in quality and taste. Subsequently, he found out more about the sustainable and ethical production, which only endeared the product to him further.
“A lot of things attract me,” he continues. “Since we’ve been able to get it in Canada, too, the price is a lot more reasonable than I thought it would be. It’s important for chefs to try different sources of meat or different ways of raising the animal. Australian lamb has quality in all of those areas that add to the flavour. Some chefs I told about it began trying it and they loved it and put it on their menu. If somebody asks me whether I’d choose Canadian lamb, New Zealand lamb, or European lamb, I’d say no, Australian lamb.”
Archer adds that once word of mouth has spread, chefs are quick to appreciate what Australian lamb brings to the table. He stresses that while supporting local products and producers is important, sometimes it’s worth looking further afield for the highest level of quality.
“I feel like unless you know about Australian lamb or you’ve had it before or you are trying something new, it’s frequently overlooked,” Archer concludes. “Alongside the quest to eat local and support local, sometimes better, premium products are available and that is what Australian lamb is. It’s the highest of high quality.”