Monday, September 24, 2007

Slow cooked lamb with mint, pomegranate and feta.

This is an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe and it makes a delightfully easy, stress free meal. Literally shove the lamb in the oven for five hours, come back and it is done. Perfect. I normally abhor dishes which combine meat and fruit but this one works very, very well.

The gorgeous Nigella suggested using lamb shoulder in her recipe but I actually prefer this with lamb leg. I find the shoulder a little bit too greasy though it does produce a slightly more ‘moist’ dish. Anyway, I leave it up to you, try both and tell me what you think.

If you do use lamb leg and have a big enough casserole dish get one with the bone in, but a de-boned lamb leg will work just as well. Two small lamb legs will feed six greedy people or 8 not so hungry ones.

Ingredients, serves 6/8

• shoulder of lamb or lamb leg
• 4 shallots halved but not peeled
• 6 cloves garlic left whole
• 1 carrot peeled and halved
• sea salt
• 500ml boiling water
• big handful freshly chopped mint
• 2 pomegranates
• Pomegranate molasses (optional)
• Handful of feta cheese cut into small cubes

And then you have to:

Preheat the oven to 140C / 300F. Do NOT do what I did once which was to heat the oven to 140F and then wondered five hours later why the lamb hadn’t cooked.

On the stove, brown the lamb, fat side down, in a large roasting tin or if you have one, a large casserole dish. Remove when browned a little, and set aside while you fry the vegetables briefly. Just tip them into the pan - you won't need to add any more fat - and cook them, sprinkled with salt, gently for a couple of minutes. Pour the water over and then replace the lamb. Let the liquid in the pan come to a bubble, then either cover tightly with foil or if in a casserole dish put the lid on. Put in the preheated oven.

Now just leave it there for about five hours. A little more, a little less makes no difference at all which is why it is a perfect stress free dish to make for a dinner party. Just take the lamb out of the oven about 30mins before you plan to serve it, leave it covered just sitting happily on the side.

Whilst the lamb is cooking wash and chop the fresh mint and put in a little bowl.

Slice the two pomegranates across the equator (if the ‘stalk’ ends are the two poles) and with one of the pomegranates holding the cut side over a large bowl squeeze hard to get as much juice as you can out of it. With the second pomegranate again holding the cut side over the large bowl start to tap it quite hard all over the skin with a wooden spoon. In a little while the beautiful little seeds will start raining down. Pull out any of the white pith that might have also fallen out and discard. If you do happen to have any pomegranate molasses lurking in the back of your cupboard add a couple of tablespoons to the mixture.

Cut the feta cheese into small little cubes.

To serve this dish I spread a pile of roquette leaves on a big flat platter. Take the lamb out and with a couple of forks pull the meat off the bone and into pieces. The meat will be very soft and will just fall apart.

Pile the lamb on top of the roquette leaves, spoon the pomegranate seeds and juice all over the lamb, then sprinkle with the chopped mint leaves and finally spread around the small cubes of feta.

And that is it, very simple, it looks great, and it is always a popular dish.

I usually serve this with a dish of small cubed roasted potatoes, a crisp green salad with a simple walnut oil vinaigrette. A salad of plum tomatoes and roasted peppers is also very nice.

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