When cooked well, lamb is an incredibly versatile meat. Cooked hot and fast it offers crisp, charred fat without, tender pink meat within. Or roasted slowly until moist and falling apart. It is also able to soak up a diverse range of flavours, making it a culinary gem in our book. So in this blog we’ve decided to take a trip around the globe to truly explore this wonderful meat in all it’s glory.
Middle East: Lebanese Lamb with Aubergine Pilaf
The Middle East as a whole does amazing things with lamb. Think Lebanon, Syria, Israel. Think garlic, mint, cumin. The newest kid on the SimplyCook block is a fabulous Lebanese style lamb leg steak with roasted aubergine pilaf rice. The Baharat spice rub adds to the charred crust and the honey and sultanas give it a sweet-savoury edge. It’s all brought together with fresh mint and pomegranate seeds. It will taste great from a griddle pan but if the weather smiles on you, get it on the barbecue.
In the box:
Lebanese Pilaf Mix
You simply add…
- 2 lamb leg steaks, (or 2 chicken fillets if desired)
- 1 aubergine, chopped into small cubes
- 1 small onion, finely sliced
- 100g basmati rice
- a handful of sultanas or raisins
- 1 tsp honey
- a handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)
- a handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Mix the Baharat Rub with 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tsp of honey in a bowl and then add the lamb steaks. Rub in well and keep aside.
Put 2-3 tbsp of oil and the aubergine on a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Roast in the oven for 20 mins, moving them around and adding a drizzle of oil halfway through if needed. They should come out looking soft and juicy, slightly browned. Meanwhile, start the rice.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a lidded pan over a medium heat and fry the onion, stirring often for 5-7 mins so they start to caramelise. Meanwhile, mix 250ml of boiling water with the Chicken Stock in a heat-proof jug and keep aside.
To the onion pan, add the rice and the Lebanese Pilaf Mix. Stir for 1 min and then add the chicken stock and the sultanas. Mix again, bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for 7 mins.
Meanwhile, heat a griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat and, when hot, add a drizzle of oil and fry the lamb steaks for 2 mins on each side for medium-rare, or longer if desired.
Mix the mint (if using) into the rice, then re-cover and cook for 2-3 more mins. Mix the roasted aubergines through the rice and then serve a portion onto each plate and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a few mint leaves. Place the lamb steaks on top and get stuck in!
Italy: Pappardelle with Lamb and Pepper Ragu
The Middle East and lamb go together like hand and glove but Italy and lamb? In fact, in the Abruzzo, lamb ragu is a regional speciality. Minced lamb is cooked with bay, garlic, white wine and chopped tomatoes until it is thick and tender. Often a good amount of roasted peppers are added, to bring an element of sweetness, but this is optional. The longer a ragu is cooked, the better, so 3 or 4 hours would be brilliant but 30-45 minutes will be fine if you’re pushed for time. Plenty of parmesan and a chunky pasta to scoop up the sauce are essential.
You will need:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 500g minced lamb
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 glass dry white wine
- 250ml lamb or chicken stock
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 3 red or yellow peppers, sliced (optional)
- 500g pappardelle
- Handful Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat the oil in a saucepan and brown the lamb on fairly high heat for 5 minutes, breaking it up and stirring every couple of minutes. Add the bay leaves, garlic and peppers and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping off any sticky residue from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to simmering point. Turn the heat down low and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 35–40 minutes. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions then mix it, along with a few tablespoonsful of its cooking water, into the ragu. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan.
Greece: Cypriot Lamb Stew
Although Greece and Cyprus are famed for fish and seafood dishes, they do a mean lamb stew. Generous chunks of lamb shoulder are slowly cooked with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and oregano. A flavourful stock and a bottleful of white wine provide the liquid. Rice shaped pasta such as orzo or risoni added at the end will soak up the flavour. Or, for a British twist, add some pearl barley for the last 45 minutes or so of cooking time.
You will need:
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 3kg large cubes of lamb shoulder
- 5 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1kg chopped tomatoes
- 500ml lamb or beef stock
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- 500g orzo
- 300g feta cheese
- 4 tbsp parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large ovenproof saucepan and brown the lamb on a high heat for 5 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Do this in batches rather than overcrowding the pan, adding more oil as necessary, then set aside.
Heat another 2 tbsp oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for ten minutes, then add the garlic. After a minute or so, return the lamb to the pan and add the thyme, bay and oregano. Give the whole thing a good stir then add the wine, scraping any sticky residue from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and stock along with salt and pepper. Bring to simmering point then cover and transfer to the oven for around 2 hours until the meat is very tender.
Add the orzo and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Check the pan and add more water if necessary – the orzo will absorb a great deal of the remaining liquid. Serve topped with chopped parsley and crumbled feta.
India: Lamb Biryani
Scrag end of lamb isn’t the most promising looking piece of meat, but it has a couple of advantages: it’s about half the price of neck fillet and the bone gives you a hefty whack of succulence and flavour. This isn’t a flash in the pan cut. It demands to be cooked for at least a couple of hours, or all day in a slow cooker, until the meat is succulent and falling off the bone. If you can marinade it first, so much the better – garlic, ginger, masala spices and yoghurt work wonderfully. Cook it in the marinade with a pint or so of water. Pick the meat off the extensive amount of bone and then start your biryani.
You will need:
- 1 large scrag end lamb
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 300ml Greek yoghurt
- 3 tbsp garam masala
- 500ml water
- 60g butter
- 400g basmati rice
- 2 tbsp warm milk
- ¼ tsp saffron strands
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 4 cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp sultanas
- 1 tbsp flaked almonds
In a bowl or large food bag, mix together the garlic, ginger, garam masala and yoghurt then add the lamb and rub the spice mix all over the meat. If possible, leave to marinate overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 140C/Gas 1. Put the lamb and all its marinade in a pan which fits the lamb fairly snugly. Add 500ml water and bring to a simmer. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. When it is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bone, and reserve the stock.
Gently fry the onion in the butter for ½ hour until golden. While the onions are frying, boil the rice for around 5 minutes until almost cooked, then drain. If you cook the rice in the reserved lamb stock you’ll maximise the flavour – reserve the stock once again when you drain the rice. Once the onions are deeply golden, stir in the rice, bay leaves and whole spices. Heat the milk, add the saffron and leave to infuse for a few minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Layer up a third of the rice, half the lamb, another third of rice, the remaining lamb and top with the rest of the rice. Pour over 300ml of hot reserved lamb stock along with the saffron milk. Cover tightly and bake for an hour or so until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice has started to become crusty. Serve topped with the dried fruit and flaked almonds.