Monday, February 02, 2009

Persian Lamb

Sunday dinner

I am heartily sick of roast dinners. I usually cook a roast of some description on a Sunday and have cold roast meat and vegetables or salad for a couple of days for lunches at work. They are quick to make and very tasty, not to mention cheaper than the Pret option. So really I should not complain. I know of friends who claim that for the whole of their childhood they had the same meal on the same day of the week with the only blip in the pattern being xmas. If it's sausage and mash it must be Tuesday. What was probably meant to be reassuring must have beem mightily tedious.

Somehow I've reached the same point of saturation with roast dinner. I really adore roasted meats and also crispy roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese, even cold I like cauliflower cheese. But I feel it has become an endless act of repetition, the only decision being what meat to buy and what veg goes with it and I am just thoroughly bored with it. It has been building up for a while - last week it was roast chicken, with the aforementioned cauliflower, but the week before I made a fabulous rice, bean and chorizo dish that went well for lunches for a day or two. Then later in the week I tried to factor in a couple of things that would also yield leftovers to get us through to Friday. It was nice, but definitely a bit more complicated. Suspect it wouldn't work next week though as I am out every night except Thursday.

This week I decided it would be a bit like meze - an ideal solution to the need for yummy leftovers and still a substantial and fairly wonderful dinner to finish the weekend. I had been toying with the idea of tapas Saturday night but my sweetie wanted cold collation so dips and bits was an even more attractive notion with the centrepiece spiced roasted lamb which would also be fabulous cold. I made a big pan of creamy butterbean mash, another of delicately spiced rice, and I put onions in to roast with the meat. Probably a dish too far I also bought cherry tomatoes with the idea of roasting them separately with basil oil - even that slow cooking didn't entirely rescue the out of season sourness.

The lamb was brilliant - the spice rub comes from an old Middle Eastern Cooking book that I was flicking through looking in fact for something else. It cooks to an intensely rich crust with the flesh scented with garlic as it cooks. All the flavours meld so that, despite the fact that the man doesn't like mint or tomato he loved this. Wonderfully decadent.

Roast Persian Lamb
1/2 shoulder lamb
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
50g butter
1 tbspn tomato purée
1 tbspn fresh chopped mint
1 tspn turmeric
4 red onions, peeled

Make 6 deep cuts into the flesh of the lamb and poke a sliver of garlic into each one, then put the lamb into a roasting tin big enough for the meat and the onions.

In a bowl, mix together the butter, tomato purée, mint, turmeric and salt and pepper. Rub this mix all over the lamb. Surround the meat with the onions and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes in a very hot oven - Gas 8, 230 C, 450F. Reduce the temperature to moderate, Gas4, 180C, 350F, baste frequently while cooking the meat for another hour or so.

Remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes for the skin to become crisp.

It was a really enjoyable meal, and a proper treat for lunch - at home Monday because we were 'snowed in' and then in lunchboxes for a couple of days.

It was £7.50 for a half shoulder of lamb, so the final cost would be about £8.50 with the onions as well - a bit of a bargain really.

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