Photography by Aaron McLean
Preserved lemon and spices really work their magic on lamb, giving it a spicy sweetness which tastes just as good as it smells during cooking.
1.3 kg (roughly 2¾ pounds) butterflied leg of lamb 1 preserved lemon 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil ½ tsp each cumin and fennel seeds 1 tsp coriander seeds 1 tsp ras el hanout ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp flaky sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Trim away excess fat from lamb. Rinse preserved lemon under running water, discarding pulp. Pat rind dry and slice thickly. Mix oil, lemon, spices, pepper, salt, and garlic together. Rub spice paste all over lamb. Cover lamb loosely (I drape a sheet of baking (parchment) paper over the top then cover it with a food umbrella) and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
2 Preheat oven to 210°C (410°F). Transfer lamb to a shallow roasting tin positioning it fat side up. Tuck garlic and lemon into any crevices in lamb to prevent them burning, or tuck under meat. Roast for 12 minutes for a small piece of lamb (see Recipe Notes below for more details).
3 Remove from oven, season with sea salt, then rest lamb for 10-12 minutes before slicing thinly with a long sharp knife. Arrange on a warmed platter. Skim fat off roasting juices then spoon juices over the sliced lamb. Alternatively, use a fat separating jug. Serve immediately.
The lamb can be prepared several hours before cooking; cover well and refrigerate but it’s essential to bring the lamb to room temperature before cooking or the timing will be out.
I think this dish leans towards Mediterranean vegetables such as eggplant and peppers. I love it with a tray of roasted fennel bulb, yellow and red pepper, eggplant and carrot, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and served with a bowl of thick yoghurt spiced up with crushed garlic, chopped mint and ground cumin. And I bulk it up with a grain like couscous, barley, burghul or freekeh. There’s so much flavour there already, but if you want to go right over the top (and, let’s face it, why not!), drizzle with pomegranate molasses. I also find the lamb is delicious cold and usually start sneaking leftovers out of the fridge sometime after mid-morning the following day!
You’ll get a great result cooking the lamb in the oven, but in summer I love it cooked on a barbecue hot plate (cast-iron griddle) because it develops a rich deep golden crust and an extra layer of flavour as the spices are driven in by the heat. You’ll need a hooded barbecue for this, but there’s nothing much to do once it’s on cooking.
Preheat the barbecue hot plate (cast-iron griddle) on high for 10 minutes (hood up). Scrape the garlic and lemon rind off the lamb and reserve it. Put the lamb skin side facing down and let it cook for 2-3 minutes only, until it has started browning nicely. I usually put the garlic and lemon on the meat so it starts to flavour the lamb. Don’t wander off or you’ll end up forgetting the lamb and burning it (I speak from experience!), then turn the barbecue to low and cook for 25 minutes only BUT you do need to turn the lamb about halfway through; I turn it after about 15 minutes, first scraping the garlic and lemon onto the hot plate. I put the hood down again, but usually check on the garlic and lemon and move them to a side plate as soon as they are browned.
Information and other recipes using preserved lemon
Photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com