Did I ever mention just how much I love Middle Eastern cuisine?! The abundance of flavours, the amazingly colourful presentations, the fruit, the smell of delicious spices and how simple to cook and at the same time so complex on taste buds it is! I’m smitten and my heart is forever stolen along with my taste buds.
Finally, I got to use the preserved lemons I made a few weeks back. With their sunny look and flavour, they added a delicious fragrance to the lamb. And, I got to use the sumac spice that was bought on my last trip to Baku – my beautiful home city where I grew up and love making extended trips to; visiting my parents, going to the local markets, eating delicious food and wearing makeup and pretty dresses every day just because all females do! It’s a beautiful city with amazing architecture and very strong sense of culture.
While this lamb has complex flavours it is kid friendly and is a great way to introduce new tastes and flavours to the little ones. Both my kids 5 and 2 years old like it very much. Particularly my 5-year-old daughter who was very vocal about it – “oh this chicken is so yummy!” and apparently it was “the best day of my life!” too., easy to please hey ;).
I served my pulled lamb with butter couscous, homemade hummus and pan fried eggplant with yoghurt dressing.
1.5 kg lamb bone intact ( I recommend shoulder )
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp dry tarragon ( optional )
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 green cardamon pods
1 small cinnamon stick
2 quarter slices of a preserved lemon
1 large or 2 small red onion peeled and quartered
4-6 garlic cloves
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tbsp honey or pomegranate molasses
2 1/2 -3 cups stock ( chicken or vegetable )
2-3 tbsp Persian feta
2-3 tbsp lightly toasted almond flakes
1 handful pomegranate kernels
1 handful fresh coriander (cilantro ) leaves
1 handful fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to 160C.
Prepare a tagine or a heavy cast casserole pot.
Mix spices, salt and tarragon in a bowl.
Sprinkle the spice mix over the lamb, drizzle with olive oil reserving 1/2 tbsp, and massage the mix into the lamb.
Heat a non-stick frying pan with 1/2 tbsp olive oil over a hight heat and brown the lamb leg on all sides (4-5 minutes each side).
Rince and pat dry the preserved lemon quarters then slice them into three strips each.
Arrange the sliced preserved lemons, cardamon pods, cinnamon stick, garlic, onions and rosemary springs on the bottom of a tagine or casserole pot and place the lamb leg on top.
Using the same pan the lamb was seared in, bring 1 cup of water or stock to a boil to deglaze the pan then stir in 1-2 tbsp honey, pour this sauce over the lamb.
Cover with lid and place in a preheated oven. Slow bake for 4-5 hours turning over and basting every 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Once the lamb is cooked and is falling easily from the bone, turn the heat off and let it rest covered in the oven for 20 minutes.
Move the lamb onto a chopping board then using two forks pull the lamb into bite size strips.
Strain the sauce through a sieve.
Arrange on a plate, top with Persian feta, pomegranates, herbs and almond flakes.
Drizzle with some of the sauce the lamb was stewed in or serve the sauce on the side.
Cook the lamb a day ahead, it always tastes better the next day – the spice flavours and preserved lemon will have plenty of time to marry and create a deliciously balanced taste.
Persian feta can be a little pricey, replace it with thick greek style yoghurt or labneh.
Serve the lamb on a flat bread with hummus, tabouleh and top it with Persian feta or labneh.