My lovely friend Linda bought me a wonderful book for my birthday in April: Diana Henry’s fabulous Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. Even the title is enough to induce excitement. It’s been sitting on my dining table since then and I’ve looked at it a lot and love it but I’d not cooked from it yet. This morning when I decided it was definitely time to do another recipe post for the blog and then began the pleasurable process of deciding what to cook, I was drawn to choose something from it. With its Mediterranean-North African-Middle Eastern recipes, it seemed the ideal book on a day when there was a rare glimpse of summer here; the sun has been shining brightly and I even needed a touch of sun cream on this afternoon when I headed into the garden for a while.
This lamb recipe with cinnamon onions appealed instantly. In the book, Henry puts the onions on top of a potato and parsnip mash but that was definitely too wintry for today so I settled on couscous instead. And couscous seemed a very appropriate accompaniment with this Middle Eastern recipe. I used to cook a Katie Stewart couscous recipe for years and years – a family favourite – that had onions on top, grilled to a nice caramel state to taste sweet and delicious, so I knew it would work well.
I began by marinating the lamb chops – lovely Welsh lamb rack chops – early in the day.
I had six chops so slightly adapted the measurements: put 6 tablespoons olive oil with 2 tablespoons harissa, 1 crushed garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon and a good handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly torn in a dish and mix together with a fork. Now put the lamb chops in and coat each one well. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour but several hours if possible.
Near the time you want to eat, start preparing the onions.
Melt about 25g butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan. Add 2 onions very thinly sliced and cook gently till they start to brown, then turn up the heat so they brown well and a few pieces become crisp. Then add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon harissa, a good squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a small bunch of fresh coriander roughly choppped. Combine and cook for a further minute.
Meanwhile cook enough couscous for three or four people. I like to soak the couscous in a bowl with salt and a good dash of olive oil and then pour on just enough boiling water to cover. Give it a good stir with a fork and leave. When you’re ready to eat, steam the couscous for a few minutes. I line a steamer with greaseproof paper. I find this method gives you a lovely light, fluffy couscous.
Now griddle your marinated lamb chops.
Stir about 20g butter through the hot couscous until it melts and then put the couscous into a warm bowl. Now pile the hot onion mixture on to the top of the couscous. Put the lamb chops on a plate with wedges of lemon. I also made a simple green and fennel salad to go with it.
It was a wonderful meal. The gorgeous marinade with the spicy harissa and fresh lemon and mint worked brilliantly. The fragrant caramelised onions with the fresh tasting coriander cutting through and served on the simple couscous were a delight. The slightly aniseed salad with the fennel added a clean tasting contrast. The whole thing came together so well that I will without doubt be doing this again … and I will also be searching through Crazy Water Pickled Lemons for more great recipes.