A leading Scottish chef is championing a new campaign to revive a traditional springtime dish.
Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle in Midlothian, is putting Scottish hogget back on the table this season, and has called for greater transparency in the naming of lamb on menus across the country.
Hogget – the youngest of the previous year’s lamb – is aged between one and two years, while lamb refers to meat from an animal under the age of 12 months.
Once popular across Scotland, hogget has gradually disappeared from restaurants in recent years, due to chefs no longer documenting it on menus.
Derek, who won the inaugural series of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2008, has pledged to put hogget back on the menu at Borthwick Castle, beginning with his Spring Dining Club later this month.
Demand for hogget as an ingredient has been boosted further this year by its use in regional heats for the prestigious Roux Scholarship 2019.
Derek said: ‘At this time of year, many diners opt for ‘new season Scottish lamb’, but what they’re eating is actually hogget. This is the youngest of the lamb from last year, and it’s right in season just now.
‘Hogget has a similar mild, gamey flavour to lamb, but it’s not as overpowering as some people can find mutton to be – and for this reason, it’s very popular. However, it’s a meat that is becoming less and less visible in restaurants across Scotland, and I’d like that to change.
‘I believe there needs to be more clarity about the naming of hogget, and the definition of lamb, on menus. We have the most incredible natural larder here in Scotland, and I’d like to encourage more chefs to give hogget the appreciation it deserves.’
Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food and Drink, said: ‘Scotland has a global reputation for exceptional food and drink and we know that people are getting more and more curious about where the food they eat comes from.
‘It is also important for both chefs and customers to support and celebrate the farmers and local producers who work so hard to produce such fantastic quality food and drink.
‘Whether it is highlighting suppliers or naming regions, ensuring transparency on menus helps to build trust, giving customers the best possible dining experience. All of this contributes to ensuring Scotland can realise its ambition to become a world-renowned food tourism destination.’
Located just 12 miles from Edinburgh, Borthwick Castle is one of Scotland’s best-preserved medieval castle keeps.
Held seasonally, Borthwick Castle’s Dining Club opens this exclusive private-hire venue to the public for evenings of feasting and fine wines.
Borthwick Castle’s Spring Dining Club on Saturday 27 April will pair a five-course menu with specially chosen wines and a tour of the historic venue, the former residence of Mary, Queen of Scots.
For the full experience, bedchambers can be booked, including a place at the Dining Club and breakfast the following morning, for £375 per person.
For more information about Borthwick Castle, and to book a place at the Spring Dining Club, visit www.borthwickcastle.com.