I cook a lot of lamb and it's a delicious meat. Unfortunately, the more unusual cuts, such as neck and breast, are not available in Hong Kong. Lamb doesn't - or shouldn't - have a very strong flavour; if what you are working with does, it's probably mutton (the meat of older animals). These dishes are easy to make and show the versatility of lamb.
Warm lamb salad with pomegranate molasses and labneh (pictured)
Cooking the lamb at a relatively low oven temperature (135 degrees Celsius) allows it to cook more evenly. You then use a grill to brown the surface of the meat.
The flavourful marinade becomes the dressing for the greens, after being heated with the pan drippings, then whisked with extra-virgin olive oil.
250 grams plain, whole-milk yogurt (preferably sheep milk yogurt)
600 grams boneless lamb leg
50 grams onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
60 grams pomegranate molasses
75ml extra-virgin olive oil, divided
20ml fresh lemon juice
The finely grated zest of half a lemon
5ml rose water (optional)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60ml cooking oil
20 grams slivered almonds
Enough salad greens for four, rinsed
To make the labneh, dampen a square of food-grade cheesecloth. Put the yogurt in the middle of the cheesecloth then gather the sides to form a pouch. Tie the pouch with kitchen twine then put it in a colander set over a bowl and refrigerate it overnight. Discard the liquid that drains out. Put the labneh into a plastic container, cover it and refrigerate; it keeps for about a week.
Lightly sprinkle salt over the lamb. Put the onion, garlic, pomegranate molasses, 15ml extra-virgin olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, rose water and half a teaspoon of salt in a blender and process to finely chop the ingredients. Put the lamb in a ziplock bag and add the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag then seal the top. Shake the bag so the lamb is coated with the marinade then refrigerate for at least four hours.
Heat the cooking oil in a small pan, add the almonds and gently fry them until pale golden. Use a slotted skimmer to remove the almonds from the oil and drain them on paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 135 degrees. Take the lamb from the bag, leaving behind as much of the marinade as possible. Place the lamb fatty side-up in a pan that's just a little larger than the circumference of the meat. Bake the lamb at 135 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 55 degrees, for medium-rare, or until done to your liking (use a probe-type meat thermometer to check). Take the lamb from the oven and heat the grill function to maximum. When the grill is very hot, put the lamb back in the oven so it's about 2.5cm away from the heating element. Very quickly brown the surface, then take the lamb from the oven and put it on a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes.
Pour the marinade into the pan used to cook the lamb and set it over a medium flame. Use a whisk to scrape up the brown meaty bits from the pan. Simmer the liquid for a minute, then remove it from the flame and pour it into a metal bowl, so it cools quickly. When the liquid reaches 60 degrees, whisk in 60ml of extra-virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
Slice the lamb. Divide the salad greens between four plates then lay slices of the lamb on top. Spoon some of the warm dressing over the salad. Add a dollop of labneh to each plate, then scatter the fried almonds and the pomegranate seeds over the top. Sprinkle with black pepper, then serve, with a bowl of the remaining dressing on the side.
Pan-fried lamb patties with cucumber-mint yogurt, harissa and toasted pita
400 grams minced lamb
2 medium-sized shallots, chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
A small handful of Italian parsley, chopped
½ tsp whole cumin seeds
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200 grams plain, whole-milk yogurt (preferably sheep milk yogurt)
½ a Japanese cucumber, diced
Fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
A pinch of ground cumin
A few thin slices of red onion
Oil, for pan-frying
2-4 pita bread, depending on size
Put the cumin seeds in a small pan and heat it over a medium flame. Shake the pan constantly until the cumin seeds are lightly toasted. Mix the lamb with the shallot, garlic, parsley and toasted cumin seeds, then season it with half a teaspoon (or more, to taste) of fine sea salt and some black pepper. Using damp hands, shape the mixture into slightly flattened meatballs about 3cm in diameter. Place the meatballs on a tray covered with cling-film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Mix the cucumber, mint leaves and ground cumin into the yogurt.
Pour oil to the depth of about 3mm in a skillet set over a medium-high flame. Pan-fry the meatballs so they're medium-brown on the outside but the interior is still slightly pink (about three minutes on each side).
Heat a clean skillet over a high flame and quickly toast the pita bread to warm it. Cut a slit in the top of the pita bread and stuff it with the lamb meatballs, rocket and a few slices of red onion. Add some of the cucumber-mint yogurt and harissa to taste. Serve immediately.
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