The past few days have seen some very interesting weather with the temperature gauge up and down like a fiddler's elbow and the skies lit up like the 4th of July during the recent thunder storms. It has, in turn, been hot, cold , humid, cool and all shades in between! When the weather is like this, the last thing I want to do is spend hours slaving over a hot stove or preparing something that needs constant watching, stirring or attending to in any way.
As a family, we do not go in for very formal weekend entertaining or family Friday nights and we prefer to eat more relaxed mezze style meals; dishes piled high with all sorts of delicious morsels, and always far more than we need that can then be shared out among the family and eaten cold for the next few days.
A typical Friday night will see us all congregating and enjoying drinks and nibbles in place of a more formal sit-down starter with all the food laid out in the kitchen on one or more hotplates, with the salads and sides heaped into attractive (and sometimes not so attractive) serving bowls with pitta and the rest of the challahs on the side.
A typical Friday night during the Summer months will see us feasting on some kind of chicken; current favourites are my mother's sticky glazed wings or tender green herb roasted thighs and drumsticks, alongside some type of lamb dish. This will be accompanied by either saffron rice or jewelled couscous and a variety of salads and dips such as the hummus and baba ghanoush (bought not made) shown above as well as olives, pickles and some kind of chilli sauce.
Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting the recipes for a full 'FNF' - Friday Night Feast but I'd like to share the Warm Pulled Lamb Salad with you today.
This salad owes much to Nigella; as it uses her original recipe with a few tweaks of my own. One large shoulder is easily enough to feed 8-10 hungry people when served alongside a chicken dish, and enough for 4-6 greedy eaters if served alone; particularly when accompanied by dips, salads and pitta or flat breads. If you can get your hands on lavash or Iraqi pitta then do, as they make the most fantastic wraps and delicious 'edible' plates!
This lamb dish is best made on the day, but needs to be cooked far enough in advance to allow it to rest out of the oven for an hour before shredding and serving.
I usually start mine at around 1.30pm, bung it in the oven and then forget about it until about 5.30 -6.00.
Any left-overs are great warmed up in the microwave for Sunday lunch, shoveled into a pitta with some hummus, lettuce and some chopped spring onion and parsley for freshness and zing.
WARM PULLED LAMB SALAD
1 large (English or round) shoulder of lamb on the bone
1-2 large carrots
2-3 onions or 4-6 shallots
4 -6 cloves of garlic
a few parsley stalks
500ml (1 pint) boiling kettle water
1 bunch of mint
1 large round cast iron dutch oven or large frying pan with a deep foil dish.
Ask your butcher to separate the knuckle of lamb from the main part or use a sharp knife and remove it yourself. Pre-heat your oven to 170c (325/gas 4/ 160 fan). Fry the shoulder in a deep cast iron casserole over a low to medium heat until browned on both sides. Remove the lamb to a board. Alternatively you can use a deep frying pan and then use a covered foil to cook in.
Wash the vegetables, top and tail the carrots, onions and garlic and and cut in halves or wedges and fry them in the residual lamb fat along with the parsley stalks. There is no need to peel the vegetables as they will not be eaten and are only there for flavour and to act as a 'trivet'. Pour over about 500ml of boiled kettle water.
Place the lamb shoulder back on top of the browned vegetables and season well with freshly ground black pepper and some coarse salt and then cover tightly with the lid or two layers of foil. Bake in the middle of the oven for around four - five hours depending on the size and the speed of your oven.
Once it is cooked , sit the pan somewhere out of the way to come to room temperature. It should look like the photo below with the meat falling away from the bone on top of the soft vegetables. You can see that the blade bone (the big white bone in the front) can be pulled cleanly out of the meat which means it is tender enough to be shredded.
While the lamb is cooling, wash and dry the mint. Strip the leaves from the stems and shred finely.
Once the lamb is cool enough to handle, grab two dinner forks and set about the shoulder with them, pulling the meat away from the bone and into chunky shreds.
Put the meat into a warmed serving dish and add the mint and the seeds from the pomegranate.
Nigella calls for the seeds from one half of a pomegranate and the juice from the other half but I think it is moist enough without. If you feel it is too dry, by all means add the juice or even a tablespoon or two of pomegranate molasses to the finished salad or you can cheat and buy ready prepared pomegranate seeds.
Mix gently and keep the salad warm on a low hotplate to serve. I do not recommend this salad cold as the lamb fat is too greasy and congeals unattractively around the meat. If there is any danger of this happening, keep the lamb in a low oven with some of the cooking juices spooned over and garnish with the pomegranate and mint just prior to serving.
בתיאבון - !Bitayavon