A deliciously simple dinner that is perfect for warmer evenings. Inspired by North African flavours, this easy peasy lamb dish is ideal for a quick midweek supper, yet delicious enough to make for a weekend treat. It can be cooked indoors on a griddle pan or outdoors on the barbecue – perfect for our impossible-to-judge British weather – it also happens to be dairy and gluten free and pretty healthy too!
I really love lamb, it’s super tasty and very versatile, so when the people from www.tastyeasylamb.co.uk got in touch and asked me to take part in their #lovelambchallenge to find creative new recipes suitable for a midweek family dinner, I jumped at the chance to get creative in the kitchen. After all, midweek family dinners are what I do best!
I had a good idea what I wanted to do too. I have been hugely influenced by North African food lately (have you seen the number of tagines I’ve posted recently?!) and really wanted to do something with a North African vibe, but something that would be simple and light enough for a midweek meal on a warm spring or summer’s evening (I try to think positively!)
Back in October I made a delicious recipe involving salmon marinated in harissa and lemon juice – such fab flavours and I just knew the marinade would work well with lamb. Though, I’ve used harissa in lamb dishes before, I hadn’t previously used it as a marinade on lamb. And, of course, it worked beautifully – the sweet, smoky, spicy flavours are just an incredible partner to lamb.
Harissa is a spicy paste used in North African and Middle Eastern food. The recipes can vary quite a bit, but the main ingredients tend to be red peppers, chillies, garlic, olive oil, paprika and coriander – all things that go wonderfully with lamb. Not only do the recipes vary, but so does the level of heat – so please be careful, as brands can vary from mild to super hot and they don’t often say! Do do a little taste test first or you might just get your head blown off! You have been warned!! I used a fairly mild one from the Tesco Ingredients range, but I have also used one from Bart Ingredients before, which is also quite mild.
I chose to use boneless lamb legs to make this dish – boneless lamb legs are a great cut for a midweek meal – they are quick and easy to cook, fairly cheap and very tasty. They are also easily available from supermarkets and butchers. To make this dish even quicker to cook, you could use ready cubed lamb – though try to get cubes from leg of lamb rather than shoulder, as shoulder is more suited to a long slow cook (such as in my Lamb and Apricot Tagine or Lamb Rogan Josh).
To enhance the flavours of the lamb and harissa marinade, I chose to cook the lamb in my griddle pan. The slightly charred taste you get from using a griddle pan goes so well with the smoky, spicy flavours in the marinade and is a wonderfully quick and easy way to cook a tender cut of lamb like leg steaks – this recipe would also lend itself brilliantly to being cooked on a barbecue. If you don’t have a griddle pan and the weather’s not nice enough for a barbecue, you can just use a regular frying pan (non-stick ideally). It will still taste good!
To go with the lamb I have created a salad that is inspired by one I found in Persiana. Back in February I reviewed Sabrina Ghayour’s wonderful book – which is a collection of beautiful and delicious recipes from all over the Middle East and beyond. In it, Sabrina shares her recipe for Shirazi Salad – an absolutely gorgeous mix of tomatoes, cucumber, red onions and pomegranate seeds. I have taken her recipe and adapted it slightly – making it more substantial by adding chickpeas (also a staple of Middle Eastern cookery) and spinach, as well as simplifying the dressing slightly. The result is a delicious, healthy, easy salad that perfectly compliments the harissa marinated lamb.
As you would expect from me, this lamb salad is very easy to throw together and only takes 25 minutes including marinating and resting the lamb, so it’s ideal for a midweek supper, but it’s definitely delicious enough for a weekend treat too! This recipe is naturally gluten and dairy free and low carb too. I think it’s filling enough to serve just as it is – but if you are feeling the need for a few extra carbs, or you want to turn this simple lamb salad into a bit of a feast, serve with pitta bread or flatbreads and some maybe even some homemade tzatziki!
Wine wise – a little tricky to find a wine to match all those flavours, but I would suggest a Spanish Garnacha would work well here – either red or rosé.
If you love lamb and would like more recipes to inspire you, I recommend having a look at my other lamb recipes and also checking out www.tastyeasylamb.co.uk – which is a great resource dedicated to all things lamb. Not only does it include lots of lovely lamb recipes, but also a guide to the different cuts of lamb available (I found this super useful!) and information about the vital role that sustainable sheep farming plays in our economy and in rural communities.
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste (I used one from Tesco Ingredients), or to taste
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- 4 boneless lamb leg steaks (roughly 150g each)
- ½ red onion, diced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Black pepper
- Seeds of 1 small pomegranate (or 2 x 80g pots pomegranate seeds)
- 200g baby spinach
- Brown (or white) pittas to serve (optional)
- Start by making the marinade for the lamb. Mix together the harissa paste, olive oil, lemon juice plus a little salt and pepper, and then add the lamb steaks. Try to marinate the lamb for at least 10 minutes – if you can do this an hour or two ahead of time, that would be even better.
- To make the salad, place the diced red onions, salt, and lemon juice in a bowl and mix thoroughly. This will help soften the onions and make the flavour less harsh. The onions will also flavour the dressing beautifully. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, drained chickpeas and olive oil, along with a few twists of black pepper and half the pomegranate seeds and stir everything together. Set aside, while you cook the lamb to allow the flavours of the salad to develop.
- Heat up your griddle pan over a high heat for 1 minute. (Use a non stick frying pan if you don't have a griddle pan.) There is no need to put any oil in the pan.
- Remove the lamb from the marinade and place in the griddle pan. Cook for 2 minutes, turn over using tongs and cook for a further 2 minutes. This should result in perfectly pink meat inside – if you want it well done, do it for 3 minutes each side or for rare, 1 minute each side.
- When it has finished cooking, remove your lamb steaks from the griddle pan and place them on a board. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then chop them into bite-sized cubes.
- To arrange your salad, divide the spinach up among 4 plates or large bowls. Put a quarter of the chickpea salad on top of each portion spinach. Arrange the lamb cubes on top and finally scatter with the reserved pomegranate seeds. Drizzle over any remaining dressing from the bottom of the salad bowl.
- Alternatively, put the spinach, lamb, chickpea salad and pomegranate seeds on the table and allow everyone to make up their own salad.
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