Here’s the scene: It’s the Saturday after Good Friday. We have friends coming over for Easter Sunday lunch. CB and I are crouched over more jars of Barts’ spice jars than you would ever have thought existed. We’ve just bought a spicer grinder which we understand to be a mark of our transition into real adulthood. Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem is poised on the windowsill, out of the way. We are inspecting the “Lebanese spice mix” we have apparently just made – it smells like paint stripper, soil, and a spoiled Easter Dinner. “Well,” I say to CB, “we could always just do a spaghetti bolognese tomorrow and call it a day.”
Luckily, CB talks me into finishing the marinade at least and after we have added the lemon, it smells heavenly – exactly like a posh lamb shawarma should. The lesson I learned here is to never ever give up on your recipes, even if you think you’ll have to use them to pot your orchids.
Persevere with this one despite its length and effort – it makes a great Sunday lunch or dinner party meal. If it’s Summer, forget about the rice and shred the meat into toasted pittas and add a salad made of tomatoes, finely diced red onion and cucumbers with lemon juice, olive oil and some minced or finely diced garlic. This will help make every bite juicy and fresh. I also make a quick, spicy spread to line the pittas from 120g of tinned tomatoes 20g Harissa paste, 20g tomato paste, a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Ottolengi suggests adding ground sumac at this point as well but I am not sure my pallet is advanced enough to appreciate the extra flavour this provided. Don’t feel obliged.
Slightly adapted version taken from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem
2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cardamom pods
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
1/2 a cinnamon stick
1/2 a nutmeg, grated, or 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp sumac
3/4 tbsp rock sea salt
25g fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely diced
40g fresh coriander, chopped finely (stalks and leaves)
60ml of lemon juice
4 tbsp groundnut oil
1 leg of lamb, bone in (approx 2.5kg)
Mejadra (for 6)
1 tin of green or brown lentils
4 medium onions
3 tbsp plain flour
100mls of vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
200g brown rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
- Dry roast the first 8 ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan or saucepan for 1-2 minutes until they become fragrant. Then add the nutmeg, ginger and paprika and warm the whole mix through for another 30 seconds or so. Move these to a spice grinder and grind until it’s a fairly smooth powder. Move into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except the lamb.
- Score the leg of lamb thoroughly. About half an inch deep should be fine. Place the leg in a grease proof lined roasting dish and rub the marinade all over. Cover this and let it sit for a few hours or overnight if you have the time. It’s my general belief that something like this would still be tasty even if you have to cook it immediately.
- Roast the meat at 170 degrees/ 150 fan for a total of 4.5 hours. After 30 mins or so, add a cup of boiling water and use this to baste the meat. Cover the lamb with foil for the last 3 hours so the spices don’t burn. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- While the meat is cooking, make the rice. Slice the onions thinly. Coat the onions in the flour which you should season with salt. Heat the vegetable oil on a medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the onion in batches, until golden brown and crispy. This should be about 5 to 7 minutes. Leave the onions to drain on kitchen paper.
- Clean the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a couple of minutes. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, a good grind of rock salt (or about half a teaspoon of table salt) and plenty of cracked black pepper. Stir to cover the rice in oil then add the lentils and the water. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes, until tender.
- When the rice is cooked, stir through half of the fried onions. Carve up the lamb and serve with the rice. Spoon the remaining lamb juices over the whole plate. Top with the remaining onions.