There's something deeply satisfying about putting something in the oven to roast for most of the day. This slow-cooked lamb salad is a favorite of mine, and one that I cooked on many a weekend in London. It can feed a small crowd, depending on how many sides you make with it.
This is definitely one for the weekend, so pick an upcoming Saturday or Sunday, one that you want to sit down and eat at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and this will be a lunch to remember. Last Sunday, I got this in the oven at about 9:30 while I was listening to records and pottering around the kitchen with my cup of coffee.
It's so easy to assemble at the last minute that we took the dog to the beach, stopped for a pint and made it back in time to pull together a late lunch and a lazy afternoon.
Pomegranates have become superfood stars in the last few years, and they adorn this warm lamb salad like bright pink jewels ready to burst open in your mouth. I like to beat the little things with the back of a wood spoon, spanking them until they all splash nicely on top of the shredded lamb. When there's plenty on top, I squeeze the rinds so the pink juices run all over the meat.
This is another of Nigella's recipes, one that I come back to again and again from her book, Nigella Bites. You'll probably need to order a shoulder of lamb from your local butcher- my friends at Paulina Meat Market set me up with a nice 5 1/2 pound specimen that was beautifully trimmed.
The shoulder is typically a cheap cut of meat for the amount that you're getting, and it really does cook down to the point of falling off the bone. Best of all, in my opinion, is the carrot that sits underneath the lamb. When I pull this out of the oven, I fish it out immediately and covet the soft vegetable that's been sitting in gravy all morning. Nigella calls it "the cook's treat," which I have seriously taken to heart. As I pull this out of the oven, my husband appears from nowhere and wants a little taste of carrot, maybe with a little hot lamb pulled from the underside of the shoulder. I know I shouldn't indulge him as he doesn't technically qualify as the cook, but I can never resist his gorgeous, pleading eyes.
I serve this with a platter of roasted peppers with almond and feta (also featured in the same book). If I'm looking to bulk this meal up for a group, I add a carb like couscous with sultanas and maybe some chopped coriander and mint. I've also done a creamy potato gratin with it that works well.
Warm Shredded Lamb Salad with Mint and Pomegranate
Adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson
1 shoulder of lamb (approximately 5 1/2 lbs or 2 1/2 kg)
4 shallots, halved but not peeled
6 cloves of garlic
1 carrot, peeled and halved
2 cups of boiling water
small handful of freshly chopped mint
Nigella writes that you can cook this overnight, which does make sense if you'd like it to be ready for lunch time the next day. If you want to do this, just put it in an oven preheated to 140C or 280F and follow the rest of the instructions.
If you're going to do it the day of (which is what I do) then just preheat the oven to 170C or 340F and cook it for about 5 hours.
On the stove top, get the roasting tin you intend to cook the lamb with and put it over a medium-high flame. Put the lamb in, fat-side down, and brown it. This will take a few minutes- you'll get coloring across the middle and that's it.
Meanwhile, fry your vegetables briefly in the fat and sprinkle with a little salt while you're boiling the water. Pour the water over the vegetables and replace the lamb, fat-side up.
Let the liquid come to a bubble and then tent it with foil and place in the preheated oven.
It seriously couldn't be any easier than that....let it cook for about 5 hours while your house fills with the sweet smell of roasted lamb.
In the meantime, I char the peppers on the grill and have them ready to go.
When you're ready to serve, simply remove the lamb from the roasting tin (don't forget the cook's treat!) and let it sit for a moment before shredding it with a couple of forks. At this point, my dog is salivating at my feet giving me his best "I'm starving" look. The meat should literally be falling off the bone.
Get a large platter or a large shallow serving bowl and pile the shredded meat all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with the Maldon sea salt, that should crumble between your fingers, and the chopped mint.
Halve your pomegranate and with the back side of a spoon, pat the rind of the fruit until the little seeds start popping out. This may get a little messy, so an apron may be required. Once each side is complete, squeeze one of the halves until pink juice flows all over the meat. Serve at once!
Nigella also notes that if this is left to go cold, the fat will become a white and congealed, so keep this warm at all costs. If you're going for leftovers, simply pile some in a pita bread and microwave for less than a minute, finishing it with Nigella's suggestion of a bit of hummus.
Grilled Peppers with Feta and Almonds
Adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson
8 peppers, your choice of colors
100 g feta cheese
1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 handful of blanched or flaked olives
2 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley and mint
Wash and dry your peppers. You can grill these several ways, but the idea is to char the outsides until they are black. My favorite method is on my gas grill, conveniently located just outside on our covered porch. I wack up the heat to high and put the peppers on and close the lid. Every few minutes, I come back to check on them and flip them until they're cooked on all sides.
You can also do this over an open flame of your stove OR in a grill pan if that's easier for you.
Either way, when the peppers are charred, pop them into a bowl and immediately cover with cling film, letting their skins steam away from the flesh. Leave this about 20 minutes minimum. If I'm going out between cooking and having lunch, I leave these in the bowl for hours and come back to peel and de-seed them.
Cut or tear them into wide strips and arrange them on a large platter. Simply sprinkle with the extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and pepper, a squeeze of the lemon juice and then scatter over the almonds, feta and finally herbs.
It's a simple but tasty salad with colors that will brighten your table. Use any leftovers in pasta or with the lamb above.