“These beautiful harissa spices give me flashbacks to a Moroccan holiday with my friends Jackie and Alex, although I can safely say the all-inclusive buffet of mostly chips and pasta didn’t inspire this recipe,” says chef Poppy O’Toole.
“A slow-roasted number, it will turn even hardened lamb-haters – the meat just tears apart,” she adds. “Put in the effort with the prep, serve it up for dinner and spend half the night convincing your friends you didn’t buy it ready-to-cook. Take the glory.”
Slow-roasted harissa lamb shoulder
2 recipe quantities of easy flat breads (8 flat breads; see below)
For the lamb:
2tbsp rose harissa paste
3tbsp ras el hanout
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1tbsp light brown soft sugar
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
6 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
2tbsp almond butter
2tbsp olive oil
1.4-1.5kg/3-3 ¼lb lamb shoulder on the bone
For the couscous:
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
A small bunch of mint, leaves picked and chopped
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
5-6 black or green olives, pitted and sliced
1tbsp dried oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
For the flat breads (makes 4):
250g/9oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
250g/9oz Greek yogurt (or 125ml/½ cup warm water + 2tbsp vegetable oil, if you’re vegan)
1tsp onion seeds, poppy seeds or sesame seeds
1tsp baking powder
Salt and black pepper
1. Start this the night before you want to cook. Place all of the lamb ingredients apart from the meat itself into a blender and blitz to a smooth paste to make a marinade.
2. With a knife, make some little incisions into the lamb shoulder to help the marinade get right into the meat. Rub and massage the marinade into the shoulder like it’s date night, until it’s completely covered.
3. Transfer the lamb to a roasting tin, cover with foil and place it in the fridge overnight (or for a minimum of six hours).
4. Make the flat breads: in a bowl mix all the ingredients – flour, yogurt, seeds, baking powder and seasoning – into a dough. Knead for about three minutes, to a soft but not sticky ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 10 minutes to rest.
5. Cut the ball into four equal pieces and use a rolling pin to roll each one out to a thin round. You’re aiming for them to be about 12cm/5in diameter – but don’t worry if they look rustic in shape. Set aside the rolled-flat flat breads on a lightly floured surface.
6. Place a large, dry frying pan over a high heat. Leave it to get hot, then throw in the first flat bread – no oil, no butter, nothing… just dry, hot heat. Once bubbles start to form in the dough (about 30 seconds) and you’ve got a little bit of char on the underside, flip over the flat bread and cook the other side for about 30 seconds, to get a little bit of char there, too. Keep warm while you do the same with the remaining three flat breads. That’s it, remove from the pan and serve (or cool and tightly wrap to store).
7. Put the couscous into a container big enough to allow it to double in size and pour in 400ml/about 1½ cups of cold water. Cover the bowl and transfer it to the fridge. Leave this overnight, too.
8. Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to start cooking so that it can come up to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/375F/gas 5.
9. When you’re ready to cook, roast the lamb, still covered with the foil, for 4 hours, until it is charred a little on the outside and the meat is tender and pulls apart.
10. Drain the couscous through a fine sieve, so you don’t lose any of it. Mix all of the other couscous ingredients into it. Season with salt and pepper to taste and leave on the side to come up to room temperature.
11. Towards the end of the lamb cooking time, heat a dry frying pan over a high heat until it’s smoking hot. Place the flat breads in the pan and warm through (or reheat them in a microwave).
12. Either serve your massive hunk of delicious lamb in the tin as it comes, or transfer it to a wooden board and pour all of the sauce that is left in the bottom of the roasting tin into a little jug.
13. Just let people dig and tear into this huge, sharing-lamb deliciousness, with the warmed flat breads, the couscous and the sauce served alongside.
Recipe extracted from ‘Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need’ by Poppy O’Toole (pubished by Bloomsbury, £16.99; photography by Louise Hagger), available now.
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