Blackened slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with minted yoghurt
This isn’t a dish I teach in my classes as it takes just a bit too long to cook, but it is something that we turn to a lot at home. For us, I just serve it with a simple green salad and beautiful ripe tomatoes, but if it’s for guests, I’ll surround it with a range of Middle Eastern salads and warm flat breads to scoop the lamb into. It’s fruity, spicy, and so delicious! The idea for this dish came from Yasmin Khan’s fascinating book, Zaitoun, Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen.
1.8 – 2kg shoulder of lamb, bone-in
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
100ml pomegranate molasses
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons sumac
1 ½ tablespoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons grounds allspice (pimiento)
3 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
Toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, optional, to garnish (a sprinkling of coriander leaves looks lovely too)
1 ½ cups (420g) thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground cumin seeds, or more to taste, plus extra to finish
large handful of mint leaves, finely shredded
splash of extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of ground cumin, to finish
tiny mint leaves, to garnish, optional
The day before you cook the lamb, sit it in a large ovenproof dish that fits it comfortably. (I use a large enamelled cast iron pan for this, but a roasting pan is fine). Slash the meat deeply on both sides in a cross-hatch pattern with the slashes about 5cm apart (just be careful not to cut right through to the other side.)
Put all the remaining ingredients, except the the garnish ingredients, into a bowl and thoroughly mix them together to make a paste. Spoon it onto the lamb then massage it in, making sure that you work it into all the cuts and cover both sides of the lamb (you might like to wear prep gloves to do this as it’s rather messy). Cover the dish, and pop it in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours of the marinade to permeate the meat. The next day, return the lamb to cool room temperature before cooking it (about 30 minutes out of the fridge is fine.)
Preheat your oven to 140C.
Pour 1 cup (250ml) water around the lamb in the dish, then put it in the oven. Cook it for 5 hours, basting the lamb with any juices in the pan every hour or so. To stop the pomegranate molasses in the marinade burning, tent the meat loosely with foil after the first 30 minutes of cooking time. Don’t worry if the exterior is very dark, the meat will be tender.
When it’s ready, remove the dish from the oven, and leave the lamb to settle for at least 20 minutes before serving.
While the lamb is cooking, make the minted yoghurt. Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and thoroughly mix them together. Taste it, and add more of anything you like – salt, oil, mint or cumin, whatever makes it taste just right to you. Spoon the mixture into a small serving bowl, cover it and pop it in the fridge. Just prior to serving, trickle a few drops of olive oil over the top, and sprinkle it with a bit more cumin. Scatter on a few mint leaves, if using.
Transfer the lamb to a serving platter along with two forks so it can be ‘pulled’; or if you like, you can slice or pull the lamb in the kitchen, and pile the pieces onto a platter. Decorate it with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds or a handful of coriander leaves as it can look a bit bare otherwise. If there are juices in the bottom of the pan, pour them into a jug, skim away any fat, and serve them with the lamb.