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Fresh at the markets: Spring lamb

Eat | Drink | Explore

New-season South Australian lamb is lean, tender and ideal for a wide range of recipes, from a ragu or stew, to spring salads.

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While breeds of sheep such as merino are best known for their wool, other sheep are bred for the quality lambs they produce for eating.

Neil Atherton, from small-scale lamb, pork and beef producer The Atherton Farms, breeds wiltipoll, dorper and damarra sheep for their superior meat. The breeds are all self-shedding, which means they don’t need shearing.

The Atherton Farms started when Neil decided he needed a tree-change six years ago and bought a property in the South Australian mid-north town of Templers. After raising his own pigs and then expanding into small-scale sheep and beef production, his passion grew and the business evolved.

The Atherton Farms's spring lambs.

The Atherton Farms’s spring lambs.

With a focus on ethical practice and the sustainable production of premium free-range meat, the farm seeks to provide optimum natural conditions for its animals, which Neil says live a happy life that includes regular interaction with the Atherton family.

The Atherton Farms sells its products direct to the public at the Adelaide Showground and Gawler Farmers’ Markets, where Neil likes to share stories behind the produce with shoppers.

A lamb is classed as an animal under 12 months old and is known for producing the most tender meat.

Spring lamb can be found at the The Atherton Farms and Zara Grace stalls at the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market, held from 9am-1pm on Sundays at the Adelaide Showground, Leader Street, Wayville.

Yankaponga Lamb sells its products at Willunga Farmers’ Market, open on Saturdays from 8am to 12.30pm. The Atherton Farms also sells fortnightly on Saturday mornings at the Gawler Farmers’ Market, open from 8am-noon at the Gawler Visitor Information Centre, 2 Lyndoch Road, Gawler.

Lyndall Vandenberg, marketing and communications coordinator for the Willunga Farmers’ Market, says new-season local lamb is lean, with a firm, light texture.

Below, she has shared her recipe for lamb shank ragu with pappardelle.

“Slow cooking will transform the lamb into an aromatic and tender meat sauce, perfect to serve with pasta. Mashed potato or polenta work equally well.”

Lamb Shank Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 6-8


6 lamb shanks
1 large brown onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 cups mushrooms, thickly sliced
6 sprigs thyme
Zest of ¼ lemon
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup tomato passata
1ltr chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cooked pappardelle, to serve


Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

Select a large, heavy-based, oven-proof pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add a little olive oil and heat until hot. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, then brown in batches of three shanks, ensuring they don’t stew in the pan. Transfer to a plate and tip out any excess oil.

Reduce heat to medium/high then add a little more olive oil to the pan. Cook the mushrooms in batches and brown them on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Next, add the onions. Stir and cook until translucent and beginning to brown, then add the carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and lemon zest and cook for a further 5-7 minutes or until softened and aromatic.

Return the mushrooms to the pan and stir to combine. Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and cook to reduce (a few minutes).

Place the shanks in the pan, then pour in the stock and passata and season with salt and pepper. Cover the contents with a layer of baking paper then the lid. Bring to a boil then place in the oven.

Cook for about 4 hours or until the meat is falling away from the bone.

Remove the shanks form the pan and pull the meat from the bones. If the sauce is too runny, reduce it on the stovetop. Return the meat, adjust seasoning to your liking and serve with the pasta and good parmesan cheese.

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