I LOVE lamb. Isn’t that awful? Of all the meats I could have fallen head-over-heels for, I chose the one with the cutest face. Even when I was slowly coming out of my “I don’t like any meat that resembles meat” phase, lamb was one of the first creatures I took to. I did take a brief hiatus from my lamb-eating ways during one of the summers I worked on the farm. It’s a little harder to eat the guys, after spending the day digging potatoes and picking beans next to them. But I quickly reverted back to my adorable-animal-eating ways. Ugh. PETA come find me and jail me now.
Of course, I did not fall in love with lamb in a vacuum. I blame it all on dad. He used to make rack of lamb, coated in mustard and spices, and cooked to a perfect medium rare. And it wasn’t just any rack of lamb. It was crown rack, trussed into a pretty round. Trust me, no one doesn’t love lamb cooked like this. And not a jar of mint jelly in sight. It wasn’t my fault. He made it literally impossible for me to resist. (And yes, I understand the proper grammatical usage of the term “literally”.)
I used to cook lamb very rarely, mostly because I’m cheap, but I discovered recently that both ground and cubed lamb is fairly affordable (even for this penny-pincher). And so, I’ve made lamb twice in the past five days. A wee bit excessive perhaps, but then I learned that from dad, too. He had a tendency to get in food ruts, where he would make the same dish multiple times a week for months at a time. Not because he was lazy or didn’t have other recipes to choose from, but because when he fell for a food, he fell hard and couldn’t get enough of it. And when that food is risotto or fried cauliflower or cabbage in butter and poppy seeds, no one was complaining.
So, here I am with my second weekly helping of lamb. This one marinated in middle-eastern spices, pan-fried, drizzled with lemon sauce, and served on a bed of the most luxurious homemade hummus. (Don’t worry, I’m giving you that recipe, too.) And of course a side of swiss chard, because if we’re going to have lamb twice a week, we definitely, definitely need our vegetables.
Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Basic Hummus (see recipe below), reserving 4 tbsp of the cooked chickpeas to garnish
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in the oven or fried in a little unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz/300 g neck fillet of lamb, finely chopped by hand
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon crushed dried za’atar or oregano leaves
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 oz/10 g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 green chile, finely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the kawarma, place all the ingredients apart from the butter or ghee and oil in a medium bowl. Mix well, cover, and allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Just before you are ready to cook the meat, place all the ingredients for the lemon sauce in a small bowl and stir well.
Heat the butter or ghee and the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat in two or three batches and stir as you fry each batch for 2 minutes. The meat should be light pink in the middle.
Divide the hummus among 6 individual shallow bowls, leaving a slight hollow in the center of each. Spoon the warm kawarma into the hollow and scatter with the reserved chickpeas. Drizzle generously with the lemon sauce and garnish with some parsley and the pine nuts.
Basic Hummus from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 1/2 cups/250 g dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 1/2 cups/1.5 liters water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/270 g light tahini paste
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6 1/2 tablespoons/100 ml ice-cold water
The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups/600 g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.