BBC 5Live presenter Rachel Burden on the pros and cons of having cute spring lambs on her doorstep

PUBLISHED: 09:35 30 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:35 30 March 2015

Rachel Burden and  administrator, Cat De Sousa with newly arrived spring lambs at Stockley Farm, Arley

Rachel Burden and administrator, Cat De Sousa with newly arrived spring lambs at Stockley Farm, Arley


BBC presenter Rachel Burden lives just outside Knutsford with her husband and three children. They take delight in the cuddly new life on their doorstep...

Spring lambs at Stockley Farm, ArleySpring lambs at Stockley Farm, Arley

Driving back from work through Knutsford the other morning,feeling groggy and looking forward to diving under my duvet as soon as I got home, I noticed the first spring lambs in the fields just out of town, and my heart soared. Here was new life, here was the sign that the dark grey days of winter were coming to an end, to be swept aside by bright mornings, warmer weather, daffodils and crocuses. And here was the sign that something very tasty would soon land on my Sunday dinner table.

I was vegetarian for 16 years, from my teenage years through to the age of 30. When the children came along, I started cooking little bits of fish, and then chicken - the gateway meat. Before long it was bacon sandwiches and sirloin steak cooked rare. Although we limit the amount of red meat we eat, everyone in our house enjoys a big lump of lamb with mountains of roast potatoes and veg (and always, always mint sauce).

Rachel Burden and  administrator, Cat De Sousa with newly arrived spring lambs at Stockley Farm, ArleyRachel Burden and administrator, Cat De Sousa with newly arrived spring lambs at Stockley Farm, Arley

That’s not to say I’m comfortable watching those skinny-legged, woolly creatures gambolling around the fields near us, in the knowledge that months down the line a man in a van will turn up to take them to a place where they can gambol no more. Part of the reason we ended up moving to this particular corner of Cheshire was the field of sheep opposite the house – a picture postcard view of rural life.

When our new neighbours moved in, they introduced a couple of lambs to graze in their back field. The children delighted in feeding ‘Bhuna and ‘Borghini, who, in a passion driven entirely by their appetite, would rush to greet us and allow us to pet and stroke them as they guzzled their food. But of course, it could not last forever.

When I was driving the children back from school one day and we noticed the empty field next door and a van driving away, silence fell, and the middle child burst into tears. This is the reality of living slightly closer to the land I suppose (or the reality that we carnivores had chosen). I told myself that at least they know where their food is coming from, how it’s been nurtured and processed and ended up on their table. Even if they have been traumatised for ever. About a week later, when we received a big bag of chops, we tried not to guess whether we were eating Bhuna or Borghini.

This Easter, lamb will undoubtedly feature on the family menu. But I’m not the one to tell you how to cook the perfect roast – instead here’s a really easy after-school option which can be thrown together at speed and left to slowly simmer, leaving you and your little lambs to gambol amongst the daffodils and crocuses. I have one non-potato-eating child (coming from Irish stock I struggle with this concept) so pearl barley is a great filler...

Rachel’s lamb recipe

800g Neck of lamb for tenderness, but any old boned joint of lamb will do(chopped into thumb size pieces)

4 sticks of celery, 2-3 carrots, 1 onion - all finely chopped

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp marmite

2 tbsp Plain flour

Approx 500ml water (can do half stock/half water)

200g pearl barley

Brown off the lamb in a glug of olive oil in a good sized casserole dish. Remove the meat and throw in all the veg and soften for 5-10minutes. Add the lamb back in, and sprinkle in the flour, coating all the ingredients. Add the liquid bit by bit (the gravy will start to thicken), plus the marmite and Worcestershire sauce. I usually add the pearl barley at this stage, then top up with some more water so that it’s covering all the ingredients. Simmer on the hob for about an hour or put in the oven on a low heat (140ish) for about an hour and a half. Serve with lots of greens and some crusty brown bread.

Happy Easter.

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