Mutton dressed as…mutton!

Another recipe post for the main course we served at last weekend’s Dinner at the Manor supper club event – mutton baked in hay. We chose this for a few reasons:

  • Mutton is an underrated meat, in the UK most people steer towards lamb, but they are missing out on a treat!
  • This is a really interesting way to cook the meat
  • Dan had lamb baked in hay when he visited Tom Kitchin’s restaurant in the summer and he only had good things to say about the flavours, so we had to give it a try!
Now I know that mutton isn’t a popular meat and that it’s actually quite difficult to get hold of. However, a good butcher will usually have some. We got ours from Keelham Farm shop. I’ve heard people say that they think mutton has too strong a flavour also, but I do urge you to give this recipe a try, as the hay add a smoky earthiness to the meat and gives a great introduction to the mutton.

Whilst the dish itself may sound quite complicated, it really isn’t. All you need is some hay, and we mean hay, not straw! What’s the difference? You may ask. Well according to to my friend Richard, hay is grass, whereas straw is the stalks from wheat, etc. so now you know. Also, straw can catch fire more easily than hay, so be warned!

The most amazing thing about the dish is that once you remove the mutton and hay from the pan, you are left with a wonderful, black oil which tastes amazing! Whilst this can be used for gravy, we took Hugh’s advice and heated some cannellini beans through the juices and topped the meat with it.

The only other change we made was to remove the mutton from the bone and then re-wrapped the meat round it before cooking to make it easier for carving. Your butcher should be able to do this for you if you’re not so confident with your knife skills.

Anyway, enough of extolling the virtues of mutton and hay – I hope I’ve convinced you to try it, it’s perfect for a Sunday Lunch! And, if you’re not convinced on mutton, this works perfectly well with lamb.

Fresh out of the oven!


  • 1 leg of mutton – about 1.5 kg
  • A few handfuls of hay
  • 125g/4½oz soft butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A few sprigs of rosemary rosemary and thyme all chopped
  • Salt and pepper


Choose a deep roasting tin, preferably with a lid. If you don t have one with a lid you can use foil. If you have a cast iron pan, this is perfect.

Line generously with loose hay, to a thickness of a couple of inches.

Make a herby, garlicky butter by combining the butter, garlic and herbs together. Season well. Then proceed to coat the mutton in a thick layer of this amazing butter.

Place the mutton in the pan, on the hay, and cover with the rest of the hay. Cover with the lid or a double layer of foil wrapped well around the edge of the dish. Ensure there are no loose bits of hay poking out (they may catch fire!!).

Bake in the centre of an oven preheated to 220C for 2-2½ hours, depending on the size of the leg.

Remove from the oven and leave to stand for at least 20 minutes. Then take off the lid, scrape away the blackened hay and carve as normal.

2 thoughts on “Mutton dressed as…mutton!

  1. This was fantastic! I had a huge leg of mutton, so decided to cook long and slow on a low heat with a burst of high near the end so I could cook some roast veg salad too. Succulent fall off the bone delicious.

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