Meltingly tender slow-roast lamb flavoured with wonderful, fragrant North African spices and served with a deliciously different take on tabbouleh, this would make an amazing alternative to the traditional Easter roast lamb dinner. It also makes great leftovers!
After reviewing Persiana a couple of weeks ago, I ended up with most of a jar of ras el hanout and was wondering what to do with it. The recipe I reviewed in Persiana was for Ras el Hanout Chicken Wraps which were amazing and I will almost certainly be making those again. But I wanted to do something different with my jar of ras el hanout and thought it might pair well with slow-roast lamb – I was not wrong! In fact, the only thing I got wrong the first time round trying this was I didn’t use enough ras el hanout. The brand I have: Santa Maria Moroccan Ras el Hanout Blend, is quite mild and the long, slow cooking definitely softens the flavours. Plus lamb has a much more robust flavour than chicken, so needs a heavier hand with the spices.. Second time round I used 4 tablespoons of ras el hanout and that was just perfect. The flavour of the ras el hanout does not dominate but it complements the lamb beautifully.
Ras el hanout is a traditional spice blend used extensively in North African cooking. Ras el hanout means “head of the shop” in Arabic and is essentially a mixture of the best spices available. For this reason there is no standard composition (it’s a bit like garam masala, in this respect). The blend often contains over a dozen different spices and each shop or family will have their own blend. Typically it might include: cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander – among others. The blend I bought contains coriander, paprika, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, turmeric, cloves and cayenne pepper. It’s wonderfully fragrant but not at all hot. It’s widely available in the shops or why not make your own? I found this great recipe for ras el hanout on BBC Good Food.
To go with this simple slow roast lamb I have made a version of tabbouleh using quinoa instead of the traditional bulgur wheat. I was first introduced to quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) when I reviewed Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food, back in January. It’s an amazing wonderfood which you will often find in lists of the top 10 superfoods. It looks like a grain but is in fact a seed. It’s naturally gluten-free and a complete protein, meaning it’s a really useful addition in vegan and vegetarian diets and it is also a great source of fibre, iron and magnesium and has a whole host of other health benefits besides. I promised myself in January that I would eat more of the stuff. What’s great is it is very versatile. You can use it in place of rice, couscous or, as I have done here, bulgur wheat.
As well as replacing the bulgur wheat in my tabbouleh recipe with quinoa, I’ve also added in some delicious pomegranate seeds. Not only do they look great, but they also add in extra goodness. They are a source of vitamins A, C and E, iron and antioxidants. Better still, it is claimed that eating pomegranates is beneficial in the prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. They also happen to look really pretty and taste fabulous. I’ve been sprinkling them on everything lately!
The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can prepare the lamb in about 5 minutes and the tabbouleh in about 20 minutes. Pop the lamb in the oven and the tabbouleh in the fridge and then forget about dinner until you are just about ready to serve. I’ve added in a green salad too for extra flavour and goodness and a little yogurt dip (you can find the recipe for the yogurt dip in my post on lamb koftes) plus some pitta breads to turn this into a mini feast – perfect for Easter Day! But just the lamb and tabbouleh on their own are enough for an everyday meal.
And don’t forget to make extra for leftovers the next day! The lamb and tabbouleh actually taste better the next day and if you make this as your Sunday roast you can take the leftovers into work the next day and make all your colleagues extremely jealous. The recipe below is for 4 but with enough leftovers for at least 1 person probably 2.
If you don’t fancy serving this with tabbouleh, the lamb would also go brilliantly with couscous, bulgur wheat, flatbreads or rice. Wine-wise I would serve this with a French Grenache or Spanish Garnacha.
- 1.2kg lamb shoulder
- 4 tablespoons ras el hanout spice blend
- Salt and pepper
- 300ml cold water
- 100g quinoa
- 400ml boiling water
- ½ a cucumber, chopped finely
- 2 large tomatoes or 12 cherry tomatoes, chopped finely
- 2 spring onions, chopped finely
- 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped finely
- 4 tablespoons mint, chopped finely
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 100g pomegranate seeds (roughly half a small pomegranate)
- Preheat your oven to 160C.
- Rub salt, pepper and ras el hanout all over the lamb and place in an oven proof dish or roasting tray.
- Pour 300ml cold water around the lamb (but not over the top or you’ll wash all the spices off!)
- Cover the lamb with the lid of the casserole dish or tightly with foil and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours or until the lamb is meltingly tender and will come away from the bone easily.
- As soon as the lamb has gone into the oven, start making the tabbouleh. First rinse the quinoa in a sieve, then place the quinoa into a saucepan. Cover with 400ml boiling water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes.
- While the quinoa is cooking, chop up the cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions and herbs finely and place in a bowl. Add the juice of half a lemon and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus some salt and pepper and half the pomegranate seeds.
- When the quinoa is cooked, drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water until completely cold. Drain thoroughly (or your salad will be watery) and add to the chopped vegetables and herbs. Stir well and cover with clingfilm. Put in the fridge until it is needed.
- When the lamb is ready, take it out of the oven and remove from the casserole dish /roasting tray from the oven. Take the lamb out of the casserole dish and let it rest for 20 minutes. Then shred using forks and arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle over some of the juices that are left in the casserole dish and pour the rest of the juices into a small jug.
- Put the lamb and jug of meat juices on the table together. Remove the tabbouleh from the fridge. Spoon it out into a serving dish and sprinkle over the remaining pomegranate seeds. Serve with the lamb. You could also add a green salad, a yogurt dressing and some pittas or flatbreads if you like.
Love Lamb? Check out my collection of Easy & Delicious Lamb Recipes