I peruse food channels the same way a teenager peruses adult channels, and for the same vicarious thrills. You never know when you’re going to stumble upon something brand new that amazes you and makes you think “Wow, I have to try that someday …”
Thus I discovered the programme “Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco”, hosted by ‘The Giggling Gourmet’, a South African chef called … Jenny Morris. Amongst other things, she is the first South African chef to host their own TV show on the Food Network … and who can resist anyone who writes a book entitled “Rude Food, Nude Food, Good Food” and then a sequel “More Rude Food“? (Jamie Oliver and his ‘naked chef’ doesn’t count).
The blurb for the programme states:
Jenny Morris is taking you on a culinary adventure, exploring the diverse dishes of Morocco and showing you how to recreate authentic-tasting, fresh Moroccan meals at home.
And it was here that saw Jenny produce the following dish: Desert Lamb. Is that what the Moroccans call it? I doubt it. But I thought I’d give it a go …
I should also add that the recipe calls for an ingredient that I’d not come across before: preserved lemons.
In a nutshell, they are small lemons pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice and salt. They’re very common in Indian, North African and some Asian cuisines and have a “mildly tart but intensely lemony” flavour.
Perhaps its the North Africa link (Algeria, etc), but I was actually surprised to find this located on the shelves of a standard French supermarket. I’m not normally one for “buy it for one dish” ingredients, but I think that if you’re serious about Indian or African cooking then these are a must-have!
I’m also not normally one for a lot of “faffing” in a recipe, or where you have to have lots of things to create lots of sub-parts which are then all combined. In this instance, however, its well worth the effort and the “faff”!
There are three parts to this recipe: the spiced butter, the couscous stuffing, and the base. And then there’s the lamb itself, of course, which should be around 1.5kg and deboned. Leg, shoulder, its all good, as long as it can be butterflied and laid fairly flat as this is rolled around the couscous filling which becomes a wonderfully moist stuffing.
This is also heavy on the dried fruit. I’m assuming that wherever you are things like dried figs, dried apricots, dried cranberries, prunes and dates aren’t considered crazily exotic and expensive!
(Fun Fact: Back in 2000, The California Prune Board decided to change the name of their product to what it really is … dried plums. Great news! The FDA was all for it! The prune board took it a step further and decided to change their name to the California Dried Plum Board. When that move was given the green light as well, the board got cocky. In one of the most audacious requests in the history of food, they asked the FDA, presumably with a straight face, if they could change the name of prune juice to dried plum juice. The FDA literally had to spend your tax dollars to issue an official response to the request, in which they informed Big Prune that “dried juice” would be a contradiction in terms.)
1.5kg lamb, deboned & butterflied
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon crushed dried chillies
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 100g soft butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small chopped onion
- ½ red pepper, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 handful dates, pitted and chopped
- 10 almonds, toasted and chopped
- 10 walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
- 2 tablespoons cranberries
- 10 prunes, pitted and chopped
- 2 dried figs, chopped
- 10 dried apricots, chopped
- 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 200g cooked couscous (c.100g uncooked weight)
- Handful chopped parsley
- 2 onions cut into thick slices
- 1 preserved lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic bulb
- 250ml chicken stock
- A few apricots for scattering
- A few figs for scattering
- A few prunes for scattering
- A few dates for scattering
- A few cranberries for scattering
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
(To cook couscous, simply pour boiling water over dried couscous in a bowl, stir with a fork and cover immediately with cling film or a plate. Leave for 10 or so minutes until the water is absorbed, fluff with a fork and its done.)
Mix together all the ingredients for the spiced butter in a bowl.
Lay the lamb onto a flat surface and open up (butterfly) gently with a knife. Spread the butter paste onto both sides of the lamb. I then left this overnight.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and all the ingredients except the couscous and parsley, season with salt and pepper and cook stirring for 5 minutes, adding a little water if it starts to stick. Remove from the heat and stir in the couscous and parsley.
Spread the couscous filling onto the lamb and roll it up tightly, secure with string or tooth picks. I will freely admit here that this was a bitch to get right … More than two hands may be necessary!
Layer the base ingredients on the base of a casserole or deep oven tray. Place the stuffed lamb on top and pour over the chicken stock. Cover and roast for 2 hours or until cooked. (I cooked for the final half hour with the lid off in order to colour the lamb.)
For some reason the photo I took of the finished dish, served with garlic green beans and lightly cooked broccoli and carrots, didn’t come out … so here’s a picture of the dish that I found online …