B ack home, lamb is usually cooked just as a traditional Easter dinner. Otherwise, I don’t believe we have lamb at any other point in the year. Probably, because of that I am quite reticent about cooking it – that and the fact that I hate my mom’s lamb. Mom, I love you, but you have no idea how to prepare lamb. But, a couple of weeks ago, it was my best friend’s birthday and we decided to organise a little dinner for him and, long story short, we decided that lamb is something you cannot go wrong with, especially because it’s his favourite food. And our little experiment turned out quite a success, in the end.
While getting ready to prepare this delicious meal, keep in mind that it’s enough for quite a lot of people – depending on how hungry they are, four or even six. So you shouldn’t make it too spicy or too anything in fact because, you know, not everyone has the same preference as you do. Or, maybe, everyone likes it a bit spicier than you do and you don’t want to ruin everybody’s meal because you are a weakling. This dish is very good exactly because it is spicy enough and somewhat sweet. Just like you after you’ve had mexican.
For the marinade - 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds (yes, I know that some while ago I said I hate them, but in some dishes they are just right and yes, you can totally judge me) - ½ tsp fennel seeds - ¼ tsp caraway seeds - 3 tbsp olive oil - 3 garlic cloves, peeled - 1 ½ tsp fresh root ginger - 1-2 mild chillies - 1 ½ tsp ground coriander - 1⁄8 tsp smoked paprika - 1 tsp salt - 1 tsp tomato paste - 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed) - 2 tsp granulated sugar - Cayenne pepper For the lamb - 800g rack of lamb - 1 tsp olive oil - Optional, if you want to serve it in order to impress people: get some salad leaves for plating For the aubergine dip - 2 aubergines - 1 tsp lemon juice (again, use your just acquired skill for making it) For the marinade preheat a frying pan and toast the cumin, fennel and caraway seeds for a few minutes. My editor-in-chief went into a tangent about how easy it is to over-roast seeds and burn them and how that can really ruin a good curry, and how he learned this from his Shrilankan bestie but I will not do the same thing to you and bore you for a good ten minutes. Besides this isn’t a curry. This part is followed by something trickier: you then are supposed to crush the toasted seeds into a relatively fine powder. If you have a food processor, then it’s easy-peasy! If not, you will have to get a bit creative – not dangerously creative, like dropping a bowling ball on them from a ‘safe’ height.
Mix the powder with the other marinade ingredients until the mixture becomes a fairly smooth paste. Though I could mention the quantity of cayenne pepper you add, it’s really entirely up to you. You know how much spice you can handle. If not, take a guess and may the force be with you!
Place three quarters of the marinade and the lamb racks in a Ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least five hours. I recommend letting them sit overnight – I know, no student is able to plan their meals in advance, but if you’re goinmg to cook then at least cook them properly. You are on the path of becoming a chef – just in case you fail your exams and subsequently your chance in academia and a better life – so better act like one!
For the aubergine dip (side note: you’d be doing this the following day), wash the aubergines and let them dry. Over an open flame – and totally ignoring the no fire rule of the college – or over a Bunsen burner when no one is looking, roast the skins of the aubergines until they blacken. Leave to cool.
Take the lamb out of the fridge and let it rest until it reaches room temperature. Preheat the oven at 200º C. Sear the lamb in the olive oil. Make sure all sides are equally done. Try not to overcook it however. Wrap the racks in aluminium foil and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
Let the meat rest before carving it. You should let it rest for at least half the time you cooked it, while making sure it doesn’t get cold.
Take the aubergines and remove the blackened skin. Mash the flesh with a fork and add the remaining marinade and the lemon juice. Mix until smooth. Transfer into a serving bowl – or you know what, you can just serve it in the same bowl you’ve prepared it and enjoy the feeling of having less dishes to wash up. I know you will.
I hope you will find time to cook this mouthwatering dish between all the last-minute assignments you’ve been postponing since forever. Enjoy your holiday and your mom’s home-cooked food while you can (unless she can’t cook and you only takeaway when you go home). And, in case you don’t hear from me in time for your exams next term, good luck with them. Don’t fuck them up. You’re not a chef quite yet.