Mutton is meat from a fully-grown sheep. This meat is tougher, darker in colour and has a much stronger flavour than lamb making it well suited to curries, stews and braised dishes with plenty of spices and aromatic herbs.

Mutton recipes have, in the past, sustained a negative reputation due to its being compared to lamb. However, high-quality mutton can be used to create great dishes - including this clove, rose and mutton biryiani, as well as this braised mutton shoulder with a parsley crust, confit carrots, black olives and capers.

When is mutton in season? When is mutton at its best?

Although mutton is available all year round, the best meat is produced between October and March.

During this time, the sheep have good access to nutritious grass and heather, which enables them to put on fat before slaughter. Breeds such as the Hebridean, Herdwick, Romney, Shetland, Welsh Mountain and Southdown, are all known to produce good-tasting mutton.

The Blackface sheep is one of Britain’s most popular breeds, with a reputation for tender and sweet meat. Like sheep for lamb, the sheep are raised in a non-intensive system which gives them better conditions to graze.

How is mutton farmed?

To improve the reputation of the meat and to help farmers sell their older sheep, in 2004, the Prince of Wales launched the Mutton Renaissanc. Mutton farming must now meet the standards for the Renaissance with these criteria: produced to a farm-assured standard; to qualify as mutton, the sheep must be over 2 when slaughtered; female or castrates, no males; any breed; their finishing diet must be forage-based; and finally, the carcass must be matured for at least two weeks before it is sold.

What to look for when buying mutton

Mutton cuts are similar to those of lamb only larger, darker in colour and bearing a richer flavour.

The mutton should be a rich brown colour with a creamy-white fat - animals with grey or yellow fat should be avoided. High-quality mutton is available from butchers, farm shops, markets, and mail-order outlets. Butchers should be able to give good information about the life, age, breed, and raising of the sheep.

How to cook mutton

Cooking with mutton is simple and often overlooked; it is an easy meat to prepare as it can be left to cook for hours with minimal stress.

Mutton recipes such as casseroles and tagine can be left in the oven for several hours. The strong, almost gamey, flavour of the meat mellows and sweetens during cooking. Popular cuts of mutton include the legs, shoulders, loin and neck.

Another popular choice is the mutton chop, a cut of meat from the sheep which includes the rib, great for braising. The meat is especially good in pies, puddings, stews and curries. Slow-cooked curries are popular in Middle Eastern cuisine,  as the meat takes spices well. Mutton has remained popular and highly valued in Asian, North African and Caribbean cooking where they use slow marinades.

Mutton Recipes: