Mutton. It’s worth it

This recipe, slow-cooked spiced mutton with chillies, is worth every minute of prep.

  • SERVES: 6
  • PREP TIME:  overnight marinade (or 4 hrs before cooking +10 mins)
  • COOK TIME:  2 – 3 hrs
  • DIFFICULTY: easy

Slow-cooked spiced mutton with chillies

It’s not the first choice for most people when buying meat.

As it’s seen as tough old lamb.

Although it is growing in popularity.

So I decided to give it a go.

And to my pleasant surprise, it was good… and everyone around the table loved it!

(and believe me, they’re a tough crowd).

What is mutton?

Its sheep aged for more than two years.

Whereas lamb is four to six months old.

Mutton has a stronger and richer flavour.

This is why it’s used so often in Middle-Easter and Indian cooking.

It can hold up against other bold flavours in tagines or curries.
The Victorians loved mutton and it was a pretty common sight.

But then it all went downhill.

Why did mutton fall out of favour

Simple economics.

Right up until the 1940s, sheep were reared for their fleeces.

And fattened for slaughter at the age of five or more i.e. mutton

But after the war, Farmers were able to produce lamb for selling much more quickly.

And on top of that, the wool trade declined significantly.

Modern textiles meant there wasn’t any value in farming sheep for wool.

So, it was just a matter of time for mutton to slowly disappear from our tables.

However, there is a mutton renaissance.

4 reasons to try mutton

 1. Flavour

Mutton is slightly tougher.

But you’ll be rewarded with a more intense flavour.

And works very well when slow-cooked which helps with the tenderness.


Mutton can be available all year.

But the best meat is produced from October to March due to the sheep eating nutritious summer and autumn grass and heather.

2. Better treated

There isn’t much point in keeping a sheep for longer without being focused on quality.

So, it should mean that the animal has been treated well.

And has had a longer and happier life.

3. Nutrients

Mutton is particularly rich in iron and zinc.

Which helps the formation of blood cells and helps develop the body’s immune system.

4. Better farming practices

Raising mutton takes time and care.

So, this means that by buying mutton, you’re supporting farmers who look after their animals.

Slow-cooked spiced mutton with chillies

Slow-cooked spiced mutton with chillies

There’s no reason to go any further telling you more benefits of mutton.

This recipe was the first I have tried.

And I can highly recommend it.

The sauce you create is epic! (Hats off to Thomasina Miers)

And don’t worry if the mutton isn’t ‘falling off the bone’ after hours of slow-cooking.

It’s mutton and it does have a little ‘bite’ to it.

But it is worth it.

However, if you’re also looking for a lamb recipe.

Then check out slow-cooked Indian lime pickle lamb shoulder.

But give this a go first (it’s also less expensive!)

Course Main Course
Keyword mutton, one pan meal, sunday lunch, sunday roast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Marinade 1 day
Total Time 1 day 4 hours 15 minutes


For the spice mix

  • 1 5cm cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small bunch of fresh rosemary leaves picked and chopped

For the spiced mutton

  • 2 kg mutton leg
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 small ancho chillies, de-seeded, torn into small pieces (available from online specialists)
  • 1 chipotle chilli, de-seeded, torn into small pieces
  • 375 ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly


Spice mix and spiced mutton (try and do overnight of 4 hours before cooking)

  • Grind all of the spice mix ingredients to a powder in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.
  • Rub the spice mix all over the mutton, then season with plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
    Cover loosely with cling film, then chill in the fridge overnight (or for at least 4 hours).


  • Preheat the oven to 150C/130C Fan.
  • Mix together the carrots, onions, garlic and chillies in a roasting tray, then pour over the red wine.
    Place the spiced mutton leg on top of the vegetables, cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for 3½-4 hours, or until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone.
  • Once done, rest your mutton by covering it in foil. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, pour the contents of the roasting tray into a jug, then blend to a smooth purée using a hand-held blender.
    Return the purée to the roasting tray and heat over a medium heat on the stove-top.
    Stir in the redcurrant jelly, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed, then pour into a jug. (this sauce is epic! So, any leftover, keep and use it on other dishes)
    Serve with greens and creamy mash.


The Standard

The Mutton Club

The Caterer


BBC Good Food