It’s an old tradition in some parts of the world that lamb is cooked and served at Easter. In the northern hemisphere it’s Spring of course and lamb is eaten as a celebration of new life and the end of Winter. Although it’s Autumn here we always like to have lamb at Easter too.
This is an easy recipe with flavours of the Middle East – I was inspired to think of it after talking to our Turkish stallholder Tahsin. Cook this under a lidded barbecue or in the oven. You can leave it while going off and doing something else. If you have time, think ahead and marinate the lamb overnight.
1 leg of lamb or lamb shoulder
2 onions, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
1-2 small/medium onions, peeled & roughly chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
4 tbps pomegranate molasses – I use the pomegranate dressing from Tahsin
2 tbps runny honey – I use the raw runny honey from Terry Lister
1½ tbsps ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbp ground ginger
2 tbps fennel seeds
½ tbsp. sweet smoked paprika
½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Place the chopped onions and garlic in a food processor and process until you have a paste. Tip into a small bowl and add the rest of the marinade ingredients leaving the olive oil to the end. Add 2-3 tbsps.
Trim fat from the lamb and make a few slits all over using the tip of a sharp knife. In the bottom of the oven dish in which you’re going to cook the lamb, place the rounds of onion. Rub the marinade all over the lamb and put it on the onion rounds. Cover the dish. You may have some left over which you can add halfway through cooking if you like.
Leave the lamb in the fridge to marinate overnight or at least for 1-2 hours. Take it out of the fridge to come up to room temperature before cooking. Heat the barbecue to medium/hot or oven to about 180-200°C. Pour some water or stock into the bottom of the oven dish so that it covers the onion slices.
Place the lamb under the barbecue lid or in the oven and leave for about 45 minutes. If using a barbecue I like a slightly smoky taste as well as the spicy flavours so I place quite a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on the grill and let them burn. After 45 minutes turn the heat down to 160-170°C. Cover the dish with foil. Don’t worry if it’s a bit difficult to control the heat of the barbecue.
Occasionally check and add a little more water or stock if there’s not much left.
Check the lamb from time to time and turn it over halfway through cooking. Depending on the size of the leg it’ll take about 4 hours until the meat is starting to fall off the bone.
Remove from the barbecue and leave to rest for a few minutes. Keep some of the pan juices to serve on the side.
In keeping with the Middle Eastern feel of the dish I served the lamb with Turkish flatbreads, plain yoghurt and two salads both with plenty of fresh herbs. We had a great balance of flavours.
Eggplant Salad (for 3)
3 large spoonsful of grilled eggplant – available in a jar from Tahsin on Sat & Sun
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1-2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
Good handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
Good handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
Pinch of chilli flakes
Juice of 1 lemon
Good pinch of salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Good drizzle of olive oil
Pea & Mint Salad
This salad worked really well with the lamb because I used plenty of fresh mint.
1 cup of frozen peas, cooked, refreshed and drained
1 packet sugar snap peas (Jason has the best)
2-3 handfuls of fresh mint, finely chopped
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Few leaves of rocket
Olive oil – a good drizzle
½ – 1 tbsp pomegranate dressing – from Tahsin
Salt & pepper
Toss together all the ingredients and serve at once.