Monday, 5 April 2010

My Easter lamb, Méchoui-style

Just to make something clear right away: this is probably THE best lamb recipe I've ever tried.

Now I was planning on cooking lamb for Easter, but was struggling to settle on the approach and recipe. Grilled lamb chops? Braised lamb shanks? Lamb stew? I was getting a bit disoriented. I wanted a lamb dish that had a similar wow-factor to the Christmas roast rib of beef. Them on a recent business trip to London I bought the Feb/March issue of Jamie Magazine  (Yes! Jamie Oliver has a magazine. And it's not bad)...and found what I was looking for: Méchoui lamb.

The main article in that issue is about Jamie exploring the food markets of Marrakesh and eating Méchoui-style lamb. As 'real' Méchoui calls for the whole lamb to be roasted on a spit in a specially designed oven dug in the ground, Jamie is kind enough to provide a recipe that can easily be cooked in a normal Western kitchen. The outcome is full of spiced flavors and wonderfully tender and moist. 

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 shoulder of lamb (mine was 1.8kg)
  • 60g butter at room temperature
  • 1 heaped tbsp ras el hanout spice mixture
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
  • Handful of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic, cloves separated 
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Pre-heat the over to the maximum (about 240°C)
  2. Put the lamb on a rack in a large roasting tin
  3. Rub the butter equally all over the lamb shoulder
  4. Sprinkle-rub the spice mixture on the meat, making sure every part is covered
  5. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the salt and thyme leaves together until well combined, then rub all over the lamb together with the rosemary leaves
  6. Push the garlic gloves into the butter layer on the lamb (you could also make small incisions with a sharp tip of a knife) so that they stick 
  7. Pour the water into the tin and snugly cover the lamb shoulder with two layers of tin foil 
  8. Reduce the heat to 180°C, place the tin on a middle rack and roast for about 3.5 hours
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 15 minutes, still covered with the foil
  10. Shred the meat using forks and serve with pomegranate rice  (or my Moroccan couscous recipe) and a mint-yogurt sauce (see below)
Happy Easter!

Tips for serving
I've slightly adapted the rice recipe, by leaving out the crushed coriander seeds and added freshly chopped parsley. The mint-yogurt sauce was a spur-of-the-moment creation: Using a mortar and pestle grind a tsp of flaky salt with 1 clove of garlic to a paste. Add a small handful of mint leaves, the juice of 1 lime and a dash of extra virgin olive oil and continue grinding until well combined. Add a tub of Greek yogurt (I used Total), mix and season.

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