Roo's Easter Lamb Recipe

Roo's Easter Lamb Recipe
Easter has always been a special event in my family. For as long as I can remember it was as big as Christmas, a gathering of family members that involved church in the morning, copious amounts of chocolate and a long, delicious lunch. My father bought me up as a Catholic, I loved going to church with him as a little girl and I really enjoyed that special time we had together, the inclusiveness of the service, the singing and the blessing. 

Easter still holds such special spiritual memories for me and I try to gather family around us and cook something delicious. This year is no exception, we have a house full - 22 Cross's to be precise. All four of the Cross boys and their various children and partners, plus my dear mother-in-law, Irene who is one of life's truly beautiful people.
It'll be VERY noisy and filled with laughter, love and red wine - I think the fact that we're all spread around the country helps as we only actually all get together once a year at the most!  

Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sam Tamimi on a wooden counter
Easter Sunday lunch has to involve Lamb of some sort, again traditionally we always ate Lamb and it just feels right. I have a few great lamb recipe's that I love and this year I'm planning to do a Middle Eastern lamb dish from the genius that is Ottolenghi, from his Jerusalem cookbook

Lamb recipe from Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sam Tamimi
2 tsp black peppercorns
5 cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom pods
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
1/2 a cinnamon stick
1/2 a nutmeg, grated
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1tbsp sumac
3/4 tbsp Maldon sea salt
25g fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
40g chopped coriander
60ml lemon juice
120ml groundnut oil
1 leg of lamb, with the bone, about 2.5-3kg

Put the first 8 ingredients in a cast-iron pan and dry-roast on medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the spices behind to pop and release their aromas. Take care not to burn them. Add the nutmeg, ginger and paprika, toss for a few more seconds, just to heat them, then transfer to a spice grinder. Process the spices to a uniform powder. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in all the remaining ingredients, apart from the lamb.

Lamb recipe from Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sam Tamimi
Use a small sharp knife to score the leg of lamb in a few places, making 1.5cm deep slits through the fat and meat to allow the marinade to seep in. Place in a large roasting tin and rub the marinade all over the lamb; use your hands to massage the meat well. Cover the tine with foil and leave aside for at least a couple of hours or, preferably chill overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas Mark 3 1/2.

Put the lamb in the oven with it's fatty side facing up and roast for a total of about 4.5 hours, until the meat is completely tender. After 30 minutes of roasting add a cup of boiling water to the pan and use this liquid to baste the meat every hour or so. Add more water, as needed, making sure there is always about half a centimetre in the bottom of the tin. For the last 3 hours, cover the lamb with foil to prevent the spices from burning. Once done, remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest or 10 minutes before carving and serving.

We'll serve this Lamb with a dish called Mejadra, this is traditional Arab comfort food and quite delicious, it's a combination of rice, lentils, onions and a plethora of spices, cooked pilau style and then finished off with crispy, fried onions on the top. The thing about Ottolenghi is that his recipe's always come with a very long list of ingredients, some not that easy to find, they take a little time to put together and they are relatively expensive. However for a special meal you can't beat them for flavours, originality and most importantly the 'WOW' factor!

Rceipe page from Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sam Tamimi
250g green or brown lentils
4 medium onions 
3 tbsp plain flour
250ml sunflower oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
200g basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
350ml water
salt and black pepper

Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes or until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite, then drain. 

Peel and slice the onions thinly. Place on a large flat plate, sprinkle with flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and mix well with your hands. Heat up 250ml of sunflower oil in a medium, heavy-based saucepan placed on a high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice golden-brown colour and turns crispy (adjust the spoon to temperature so the onion doesn't fry too quickly and burn). Use your spoon to transfer into a colander lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other two batches of onion; add a little extra oil if needed.

Wipe clean the saucepan in which you fried the onion and put in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place on a medium, heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to the boil, cover with a load and summer on a very low heat for 15 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. 

Add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.
Finally a fresh salad of green leaves, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine puts with a fresh, zesty lemon and olive oil dressing will sit perfectly with this, all washed down with an ice cold, pale pink glass of rosé or robust red wine! I have a feeling we’re in for a very noisy, fun filled Easter weekend, I hope yours is too!!

Happy Easter, love Roo xxx
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