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Mediterranean roast lamb with fennel salad and coriander flatbreads

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If it feels like a long time since I posted a recipe here that’s probably because it feels like a long time since I last cooked properly!  Life has a habit of taking over and in between changing nappies, writing essays and preaching sermons I’ve barely kept on top of the washing up let alone had chance to get creative in the kitchen.  However (as you can probably guess) yesterday I decided I had had enough of this and, despite the chaos in kitchen, I rolled up my sleeves, put Toby in the high chair, and decided to make something delicious.

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I’ll post about this book some other time but here is a diagram of different cuts of mutton from an old French encyclopedia!

I had bought a lamb shoulder knuckle joint on a whim last time Charlie and I were at the farm where we volunteer (talk about traceablity – we saw the lamb just a few minutes after it was born and brought it in from the fields and fed it every Monday afternoon for it’s whole life!).  I had been thinking about doing a Tagine with it but yesterday I didn’t really fancy that so I decided to do a long, slow roast with a bunch of eastern mediterranean flavours.  I started thinking about it around midday and we ate at about 5:30pm but if I was doing it again (which I most certainly will) I would start marinading it the night before and roast it for as long as possible.  You’ll have to accept my apology for the lack of photos, it was so tasty that it had all disappeared before I had chance to take any.  I like to think this was the sort of meal Jesus would have loved!

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Ingredients (served 2 adults and 2 children but could easily have stretched to a few more)

For the lamb

1 lamb shoulder knuckle joint, bone in (I’m sure other joints would work well but try and get something fatty with the bone in)
4 tsp Cumin seeds
6 shallots
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp dried chilli seeds
3 dried apricots
2 dried and pitted dates
2 tsp dark brown soft sugar
Lemon juice
Good quality olive oil (I got a bottle of Peace Oil for Christmas, it’s beautiful stuff!)
Salt & pepper

For the salad

1 large fennel
3 large vine tomatoes
1/3 savoy cabbage (I’m sure any white cabbage would work, this just happens to be what we had)
100g feta cheese
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

For the flatbreads (makes about 6)

300g strong white flour
6g fresh yeast
5g salt flakes
100ml whole milk
100ml warm water
2 tbsp chopped coriander

To serve

Fresh yoghurt (I used ‘greek style’ but any plain yoghurt will do)
a bottle of good red wine (I used a nice Valpollicella Ripasso from Italy)

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How to make it

1) Take the lamb out of the fridge and score deep lines through the fat all over it, making sure you get right down into the meat.  Put it into a deep baking tray and leave to rest at room temperature for half an hour.

2) Toast the cumin seeds gently for a few minutes, making sure they don’t burn.

3) Peel and roughly chop the shallots and garlic, finely chop the apricots and dates

4) Make the marinade by whizzing the toasted cumin seeds, shallots, garlic, chilli seeds, apricots, dates, sugar, salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice in a food mixer until they are all finely chopped and mixed.  Add a glug of olive oil until it reaches a spreadable consistency (but not too runny, you want it to stay on the meat!)

5) Spread the marinade all over the lamb, making sure you rub it right into the cuts (I’m afraid there’s no alternative here other than getting your hands messy – just give in and enjoy it!)

6) Leave the lamb to marinade for at least a couple of hours, preferably longer and ideally overnight.

7) Preheat the oven to around 180°C, gas mark 4.

8) Roughly slice the fennel and spread it around the lamb in the baking tray.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper then cover the whole lot with foil and place in the oven.  I cooked it for about 2 hours but it could easily have taken longer.

9) About an hour and a half before you want to eat mix the flatbread ingredients in a large bowl, mix well, knead gently for a few minutes (it should be soft and a bit sticky, please resist the temptation to add more flour!).  Cover it (I tend to put the bowl inside a large plastic bag – a binbag is ideal) and leave it somewhere warm to rise for about an hour.

10) To make the salad finely slice the tomatoes and cabbage, toast the pumpkin seeds and roughly chop the Feta, mix them all together in a big bowl with some salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and set aside for later.

11) About half an hour before you want to eat put a couple of baking sheets in the bottom of the oven to heat up, take the foil off the lamb and turn the heat up high.

12) Divide the dough (which has hopefully now risen a bit) into 6 pieces on a lightly floured surface and roll them out to about 5mm thickness.  Don’t worry about their shape, the more uneven they look the better in my opinion!

12) About 15 minutes before you want to eat take the lamb out of the oven and put it onto a board to rest.  Mix the fennel in with the salad, it should break up into smaller bits by itself and will hopefully begin to melt the Feta a little.

13) Place the flatbreads onto the preheated baking sheets and put them back in the oven (which should now be on high)

14) Pour the remaining juices and marinade from the baking tray into a saucepan, add a large glass of red wine and turn the heat up so that it begins to reduce down.

15) Once the flatbreads have cooked (they might puff up but they might not, they might start to catch and burn a little, they might not, just keep an eye on them and see what you think!) you can serve it all up.  I think the best way is to have it all on the table and people can just dig in.  You should end up with a bowl of salad, a joint of Lamb, a plate of flatbreads, a bowl of yoghurt, a jug of sauce, a glass of wine each and a lot of sticky fingers!

16) Eat and enjoy!

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This picture is so good I’ve got to put it in again, sorry!

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