Braised Lamb and Pilaf

Slow Braised Lamb with Barley and Black-Eyed Pea Pilaf


It’s been over a week since the World Cup of food ended on this here blog and the little grey cells have been taking a few days off from writing as well as catching up on some long awaited sleep due to the asocial hours that the football was on in Australia. However, the cooking has not stopped, as one must eat.

You are in for a treat with this dish. It has been influenced by the amazing food that I have discovered during those 32 days and 32 dishes. It’s an amalgamation of North Africa, the Middle-East and a touch of the Brasilian.

Firstly, the pilaf combines pearl barley and black-eyed peas (the Brasilian bit). Texturally they are a great combination, but the added bonus is that the cooking times are approximately the same so they can be cooked together. Also, the black-eyed pea is the only legume I know that doesn’t require prior soaking. I wanted a North African/ Middle Eastern feel to the flavour so combined sumac, the wonderfully sour and tangy dried dupe of the same named shrub, cinnamon and cumin. Once the pilaf has cooked coriander, mint and toasted hazelnuts are tossed through and then pearls of pomegranate are sprinkled over to produce random bursts of acidic punch and crunchy bitterness.

The lamb has been marinated with a concoction of Moroccan style spices, the inspiration being ras-el-hanout. The key to a melting pull-away lamb is long and slow braising, in its own braise. Finally, I created a tangy and salty sauce to complement the dish and for this I used a combination of feta and yoghurt spiked with lemon juice, cumin and mint.

I feel like this dish is a story within itself.


Serves: 6   |   Preparation: 25 minutes + 12 hours marinating   | Cooking time: 6 hours total



For the Lamb:
1.5kg Lamb shoulder on the bone |
2 medium cloves Garlic | Crushed.
12g Peeled fresh ginger | Minced.
1 tsp. Ground cumin | Toast the seeds and grind.
½ tsp. Sumac |
½ Stick Cinnamon | Toast it and grind.
1 tsp. Ground coriander | Toast the seeds and grind.
3 Ground green cardamom pods | Toast the Pods and grind.
10 Ground black peppercorns | Toast the peppercorns and grind.
2 Ground cloves | Toast the cloves and grind.
1 pinch Crushed saffron strands | Crush between two spoons.
1 pinch Sea salt |
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil.

For the pilaf:
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil |
1 medium Brown onion | Minced.
1 medium clove Garlic | Minced.
1 tsp. Cumin seeds |
½ tsp. Sumac |
1 tsp. Ground cinnamon |
2 Pinches Sea salt |
400g Pearl barley |
100g Black-eyed peas | Pick out any erroneous bits.
1.25 litres Hot chicken stock | Use a vegetable stock if just making the pilaf as a vegetarian dish. Chicken stock can be found here.
½ Lemon Juice and grated zest |
1 Handful Mint | Rinsed and roughly chopped.
1 Handful Coriander | Well rinsed and roughly chopped.
50g Toasted hazelnuts | Roughly crushed (To toast, take raw hazelnuts and toast in a 180°C (360°F) oven for 5-10 minutes, until oily and fragrant).
½ Pomegranate Seeds | Cut the pomegranate in half and then firmly tap the skin side to loosen the seeds.

For the yoghurt/ feta sauce:
1 Lebanese cucumber | finely diced.
100g Greek feta |
200g Greek yoghurt |
½ Lemon Juice and grated zest |
Pinch Ground cumin |
10 Mint leaves | Finely chopped.


How to:

For the lamb: Combine the garlic, ginger, cumin, sumac, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, saffron, sea salt and grapeseed oil. Rub this marinade into every nook and cranny of the lamb, put the lamb in a sealable plastic bag with any remaining marinade and leave in the fridge for 12 hours to marinate.

Take the lamb out of the fridge and leave to stand for an hour at room temperature. Preheat an oven to 130°C (270°F). Put the marinated lamb in a roasting tray and create a steam-tight ‘tent’ over it with two pieces of foil. By capturing the steam the lamb will braise in its own juices. Put the lamb in the oven for 2 hours. After 2 hours turn the oven down to 110°C (230°F) and cook the lamb for a further 3 hours.

Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest in the covered roasting tin. Increase the heat of the oven to 180°C (360°F).

For the pilaf: In a large heavy based casserole dish heat the grapeseed oil over a low to medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and heat for 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Turn the heat up to high, add the pearl barley and black-eyed peas and toast for 1-2 minutes whilst stirring. Add the sumac, cinnamon and salt, and stir. Now add the hot stock and bring to the boil ensuring that the barley and black-eyed peas are evenly spread across the dish. Cover the dish so it is air-tight (use a piece of foil under the lid if necessary) and put in the oven for 45 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the sauce: blend the feta in to the yoghurt using the back of a fork until smooth. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin and mint and mix well. Set aside in the fridge until required.

To finish the pilaf, remove it from the oven and break it up gently with a fork. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, mint, coriander and hazelnuts, and mix well.

Remove the lamb from the roasting tin and let it drain for a minute. Pull the lamb apart into various sized strips using a couple of forks.

Put the pilaf in to a large warmed serving bowl. Place strips of the braised lamb over it. Now drizzle over the yoghurt/ feta sauce and finally sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.

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