Monday, April 13, 2009

Arabian spiced rack of lamb with couscous

Serves 2

This gorgeous lamb recipe contains harissa, a versatile hot paste from North Africa that can be added to dishes or served in a separate bowl on the table. It is widely available, but try making your own for a delicious fresh flavour. It will keep in the fridge in a covered jar for a few weeks. If you are concerned about the heat of the paste, use less, or milder chillies.

For the harissa paste (makes about 150ml)
25g large dried red chillies
2 tblsp coriander seeds
1 generous tblsp cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground paprika
60ml olive oil

For the lamb and couscous
1 prepared rack of lamb (3-4 cutlets per person, depending on their size and your appetite)
100g couscous
2 tblsp olive oil
150ml light chicken or vegetable stock
1 tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tblsp fresh mint, chopped
½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
50g toasted flaked almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 heaped tblsp greek yoghurt (optional)

To make the harissa paste, split the chillies in half lengthways, remove and discard the seeds, then soften the chillies in boiling water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, dry-fry the coriander and cumin seeds in a frying pan on a medium to high heat for about 1 minute, tossing regularly, until the spices just begin to smoke and toast. Grind in a spice-grinder or with a pestle and mortar.

Place the garlic, salt, paprika, ground spices and drained red chillies in a food processor and whizz to a paste, slowly adding the olive oil until well combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7, then prepare the rack of lamb. Lightly score the fat in a crisscross pattern, without cutting through to the meat.
Place in a roasting tray and spread a generous tbsp of harissa over the fat, pressing it down with your hands or a spoon. Roast for 20 minutes (rare to medium) or 25 minutes (well done) for a small rack, 30-32 minutes for a larger one. After 10 minutes, cover with tinfoil so the harissa doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, pour the couscous into a bowl, rub in the olive oil, to coat the grains, then pour over the hot stock. Stir, then cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes until the couscous has absorbed all the stock. Add the parsley, mint, onion and most of the toasted flaked almonds. Stir well and season.

Once the lamb is cooked, turn off the oven and leave the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve by cutting between the bones; each person should have 3-4 cutlets. Spoon the couscous onto warmed plates and arrange the cutlets on top. Scatter with the remaining flaked almonds and serve with a spoonful of greek yoghurt, if using

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