Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almond Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing
This recipe is a culmination of all the lovely things I have been cooking and obsessing over these past few weeks and as they are all brought together in one dish it seems fitting that it is just in time for the Easter weekend as it will make a lovely alternative to the standard British roast, if you can tear yourself away from tradition.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have written before about how when I roast a joint or a bird I make sure I buy a beast large enough to fill twice the number of the original meal.  This is to ensure I achieve bountiful leftovers as there is nothing more rewarding the next day than throwing together a luxurious meal upcycled from yesterdays roast.  This lamb dish can go either way, it would work very well as one of those Easter Monday 30 minute meals or can equally hold its own as the very reason for roasting the joint in the first place.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb  |  Stroud Green Larder

Aside from the lamb itself there are three other components which I am just loving in my kitchen at the moment, the nutty crunch of almonds and pine nuts which I have toasted in abundance these past few weeks and have a nifty little jar now in my cupboard any time I need to pep up a salad or a side of rice.  I have also been caramelising onions like there is no tomorrow.  It is so worthwhile setting up a large saucepan and if your weeping eyes can handle it frying off a large amount of onions at a time, then sit them in the fridge as a little pick me up for any salad you might be preparing or as a quick go-to base for the evening’s dinner.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almond Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing  |  Stroud Green LarderIMG_3881

Finally I reach the cornerstone of my recent diet which is this green tahini dressing.  I have been making it every day and eating it with everything.  Tahini by itself I do think is an acquired taste.  First you must fall in love with houmous which I think most of us have down pat by now, then if you strip out the chickpeas you are left with this core element.  Tahini is no longer defined by its houmous heritage as we are now learning from middle eastern cooking the delights of this ingredient on its own.  However, since tahini is the richer element of the houmous it needs definite lightening up so the addition of lots of fresh herbs and lemon juice lifts the sauce into a bold creamy dressing.

This makes a lovely salad on its own but is also an absolute feast if served with cumin roasted potatoes or buttered rice.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almond Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing  |  Stroud Green Larder

Slow Roasted Lamb with toasted almonds, pine nuts and a green tahini dressing

1.5kg lamb shoulder on the bone (for spice paste see below)
50g flaked almonds
50g pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced thinly
fresh dill, mint and coriander to scatter

Lamb spice paste
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
juice of ½ lemon
60ml olive oil

Green tahini dressing
3 tbsp light tahini
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp water
15g dill
28g coriander including stalks
10g mint leaves

  1. Pre-heat oven as high it will go.
  2. Mix together all the spice paste for the lamb.
  3. Slash into the lamb shoulder several times with a sharp knife. Slather the spice paste all over the lamb, massaging into all the slashes you created.
  4. Place the lamb on a roasting tray and cover with foil. Put the lamb in the oven, immediately turning the oven down to 170°C. Roast for 4 hours. Then remove from the oven and rest for 15 mins
  5. Half an hour before you remove the lamb from the oven put the almonds and pine nuts in a medium saucepan on a low heat and toast gently until they are just about to turn colour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  6. In the same saucepan heat the olive oil then add the onions and some seasoning. Cook gently on a very low heat for 20 mins until completely softened but not yet caramelised, then add the red peppers, stirring in. Cook for a further 10 mins until the peppers have softened and the onions have caramelised. Set aside.
  7. To make the tahini dressing just whizz everything up in a food processor with seasoning until smooth.
  8. After the lamb has rested, pull the meat off the bone. Mix with the onions and peppers, a slug of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Scatter the almonds, pine nuts and a few fresh herbs over the top.
  9. Serve with the tahini dressing.

Cracked Pork Belly with Mustard Greens and Blackberry Vinaigrette

Cracked Pork Belly

Have I mentioned I like pork? I like it bunches. Possibly on a par with cake but they would have to duke it out bare-knuckled before I could truly declare a winner.

Last weekend, our local pub, The Old Dairy, was having a pork and cider festival. Of course we thought we should do our bit for local business and went along to support it whole-heartedly. They offered, alongside their usual fare, a little piggy menu featuring impossible to choose from items like pulled pork baps. So, we decided not to decide and just went the whole hog (I refuse to apologise for that), and ordered the piggy feast. We were treated to crackling popcorn, braised pig cheeks, barbecued ribs, pork belly, crispy pig ears and a bacon salad as a token gesture at health. This all went down very well, so much so that I couldn’t help but re-create one of the elements during the week.

There is no reason why this can’t be a mid-week treat as you get a lot of joy from not much work. The pork belly itself takes moments to prepare and can easily be done in about ten minutes in the morning to be thrown in the oven as soon as you get home. Have a glass of cider to indulge in your own festival whilst you are waiting the hour for the pork belly to get itself ready. I had picked up some lovely mustard greens from the farmers market and drizzled over some fresh fruity vinaigrette to add a sweet zing to the ensemble.

The blackberry vinegar I used was one of the by-products of my mammoth blackberry September but you can use any fruit vinegar just whisked together with a bit of olive oil to create your dressing. For the pork belly I like to use garlic powder instead of the real thing not only because it is the lazy option but also doesn’t produce that acrid burnt smell which fresh garlic cloves do in high heat.

Pork Belly1

Cracked Pork Belly with Mustard Greens and Blackberry Vinaigrette

2 kg pork belly
1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
1 tbsp thyme leaves
Zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp garlic powder
Plenty of salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C
  2. Pat the pork belly dry with kitchen towel then score the skin in a criss cross, being careful not to pierce the meat.
  3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and rub over the skin, pushing the herby crumbs into the cracks you created in the skin. Season well.
  4. Place the pork belly in a roasting tray, skin side down and roast on the high heat for 15 mins.
  5. Turn the heat down to 160°C and roast for a further 30 mins.
  6. Turn the pork belly skin side up and roast for a final 15 mins.
  7. Remove the pork belly from the oven and rest for ten mins before slicing.
  8. Serve on top of the mustard greens and drizzle over with the blackberry vinaigrette.

Roast Chicken with all the Sunday Trimmings

Roast Chicken with all the Sunday TrimmingsI read a very worrying headline in the Daily Mail yesterday, ‘A family dinner? We’d rather eat in front of the telly: How just one in 50 families enjoy once-traditional weekend meal.’ Foregoing my usual scoff at the insular sensationalism typically offered by the Daily Mail, this time I felt a pang of recognition at the topic at hand. Last minute conversations before the working day in our house are often desperately trying to organise how we’ll be able to eat dinner together. Work events, long hours and the occasional quick drink with friends can severely compromise the two of us sitting down at a table at a reasonable hour for dinner. Supper on the sofa happens all too frequently.

The one meal we can always rely upon as a family to both cook together and eat together is our Sunday Lunch. It is absolutely sacrosanct. If we don’t have it at home then we will have it out and we are constantly grading our pubs and nearby eateries with whether they do a decent Sunday Lunch. The conversation always ends the same way though as they might do an okay one, but it is never as good as at home. Roast potatoes can be hard, gravy can be too thin and Yorkshire puddings merely crisp clouds, nice to look at but lacking the necessary pudding.

This Sunday we had something extra special to celebrate as we have a new furry sidekick in our midst. A little bundle of trouble whom after only a few hours of being in our family had already joined in, nestling down between our feet as we ate at the dining table. At least he didn’t jump onto the table and insist on sleeping between the cabbage and potatoes like Willow.

PuppyUnlike the meals we have in the working week, we take pleasure in making lunch on a Sunday centre stage. Today it was the turn of the chicken which I think of as the easiest roast. There are only two things to remember when cooking a chicken; if it’s a small bird it takes 1 hour 15 mins, if it’s a large one it takes 1 hour 30 mins. Any further information is just fancy talk. But I do like to talk fancy. For our classic roast chicken we stuff the cavity with half a lemon, a handful of parsley stalks, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple of garlic cloves still in their skins. We rain down salt and pepper like a heavy thunderstorm and finally drench it in olive oil.
Roast ChickenA roast dinner in our house is not complete without carrot and swede mash. I grew up with my grandmother insisting on calling it carrot and turnip probably to annoy my father who was constantly correcting her but I knew what I was getting and now I would never think to let the week end without it. It is one of my top five foods of all time. I give you a few weeks before you discover the rest of that list. It won’t be difficult, the things I like, I tend to have immoderately. Carrot and Swede mash just requires you to peel, then chop the swede into large cubes, chuck it in a large saucepan with the same volume of carrots, peeled and chopped into large circles. The veg is brought to a boil then turned down to a simmer for at least 45 mins. Any less and it just doesn’t mash the same. This is no time for al dente, save that for your baby veg. As soon as a knife can fall through a cube of swede like butter then you can add copious amounts of… butter… and nutmeg and salt and pepper. Jazz it up. The time will come soon when I will beckon you to add crème fraiche but not today, today the butter will be all the dairy you need.
Carrot and SwedeRoast Potatoes! Peel, chop in half, par-boil for 10 mins, drain, bash around in the colander, then throw into a baking tray with hot olive oil, garlic cloves and rosemary and roast in the oven for 45 mins at 180°C. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

The gravy, though. Oh, the gravy. Please please tell me you don’t use Bisto? This is the one part that I’m afraid I can’t take any shortcuts on. I think of the gravy for my next roast the moment I am clearing away the one before. The essential ingredient is fresh stock and the sticky bits from today. Since I like all the components of my roast to be ready at the same time, I save the sticky bits from the bottom of the meat, put it in Tupperware and save for the next roast. The same goes for my stock, which is always simmering away on a Sunday night during Downton Abbey whilst we are gorging on pud.  This means today all I had to do was remove my sticky bits from the freezer, heat in a saucepan, add flour, a glug of Marsala, then the stock, a bay leaf and some thyme. If I start cooking this halfway through my chicken time then the gravy is rich and flavoursome by the time the chicken is taken out of the oven. This is never something I regard as a faff because as I said, in my household the Sunday Lunch is absolutely sacrosanct.