Lamb, Aussie style

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Mulwarra lamb is making inroads into the Indian palate through a host of traditional and non-traditional dishes, writes MINNAL KHONA

Lamb-Noisette-low res

There’s no doubt that most Australians love their local lamb, but a taste of this viand cooked to suit the Indian palate in the Indian subcontinent is unusual. But recently, the Hyatt Group of Hotels in India has collaborated with Mulwarra Export, a Victorian company, to supply lamb to its properties at the Hyatt hotels in Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai.

From Australian wines to coffee and now lamb, products from down under are gaining popularity and acceptance in India. To promote their product in partnership with Hyatt Hotels, Mulwarra Export Pty Ltd, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Treasury Wine Estates organised an ‘Australian lamb experience’ recently. The participating Hyatt Hotels include the Hyatt Regency in Chennai and Delhi, the Park Hyatt Hyderabad and Grand Hyatt Mumbai.

I attended a media lunch at the Park Hyatt in Hyderabad for a taste of Aussie lamb, Indian-style. I was curious to see how Australian lamb would fit into Hyderabadi biryani and other meat dishes for which the city is renowned. The lunch was hosted by Mike Tafe, Corporate Chef, Mulwarra Export, at The Dining Room, Park Hyatt’s Indian fine dining restaurant. Accompanying the food was the Koonunga Hill Chardonnay and Koonunga Hill Shiraz from Penfolds.

Greg Darwell, Managing Director of Mulwarra Export, told me his company’s lamb is being exported to over 30 countries. Greg revealed, “Early this year, we decided to introduce our product in India. The Hyatt group is one of our largest end users. It has been very well received in other parts of the world, and we hope to repeat that success in India”. Incidentally, the partnership means that any lamb dish served at any of the Hyatt properties mentioned will be the Mulwarra lamb, and not the local variety. The Mulwarra lamb is all-natural prime lamb sourced from the pristine lamb regions of Victoria, which has specialised growers and some of the finest lamb producing areas in the world. The lamb is halal certified and USFDA approved.

Chef Tafe, who also has his own spice marketing company, has been using the Mulwarra lamb for over 12 years at all the hotels in which he has worked.

“I am not afraid to use spices to appeal to the Indian palate, but at the same time I don’t like to overshadow the lamb,” he said, commenting on the menu for the day. Minimal marinades, slowly braised cuts of shoulder or leg of lamb were served in different avatars.

We started with a lamb and lentil soup flavoured with cumin and lemon-scented yoghurt. The soup tasted a lot like our dal makhni, except for the bits of lamb added and the hint of lemon. It was delicately flavoured and the lamb and lentils were easily distinguishable, even though both had absorbed the flavours of the spices. This was followed by a Japanese salad, a tataki of lamb loin with ginger, sesame and soy.

Chef Tafe, it seems, really knows his lamb. The several options that were served in the main course, all lamb-based of course, were full of flavour and each one was different from the other.

“I have created different recipes, some are traditional ones. Essentially, the dishes are appropriate for the international traveller who is exposed to global cuisine. I try and incorporate flavours from the Middle East, South East Asia and the Mediterranean as well as India,” he said, adding that the lamb lends itself very well to rogan josh and Chettinad style curries.

True to his word, each serving had a different flavour. The barbecue Mulwarra lamb, butterflied with Greek spices and served with a basil tzatziki is refreshing and very soft. The breaded lamb rack cutlets with Italian herbs eventually emerged as my favourite from all the dishes I tried, and was replete with the aroma and taste of Italian herbs. Mixed with the bread, it was really tasty. This was followed by the lightly smoked lamb cutlets with chipotle butter, also quite different. The roast lamb rump with ras-el-hanout had a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour.

The one aspect that repeatedly stood out in all the lamb dishes served was that there was no prominent odour that lamb can sometimes have. In fact, even though all the dishes were delicately flavoured with a minimum of spices used, none of the dishes had any odour. Chef Tafe definitely accomplished his goal of not overshadowing the lamb.

We ended with a mango pavlova and though none of the dishes were traditional to the Indian palate, I could see satisfied faces all around me.