Were you to ask any of my dearest ones to describe me in a handful of adjectives, I’m not sure that ‘quick’ would number amongst them. Sure, I can come up with a ropey pun or single-entendre at speed. I’ve been known to tumble over my words from time to time. I tend towards speed rather than sloth when in a car. But I am still a girl who didn’t make it past stage three of the beep test in PE at school; I gave up on any instruments which required me to read notation because I couldn’t read and play fast enough; and I’ve only just begrudgingly realised how much I love the music of Taylor Swift. However, this weekend’s cooking has proven to me that haste isn’t the virtuous child.
Slow-cooking is geriatric in terms of gastronomic fads. It was the sort of thing that was being championed by The Guardian when I was but a zygote. However, being wedded to roast chicken as my roast of choice and also only becoming a fan of lamb in recent years, it’s taken me a while to get here. The unrelenting heat of an oven on a low-gas mark does that thing to meat that being fiercely sun-beaten on holiday does to you. It just relaxes. Positively oozes off the bone and pours itself into your gob.
Slow-roast Moroccan lamb with aubergine and chickpea stew
Look, I’ve said “Moroccan” but I have no idea whether that’s accurate or not. That’s just what I had in mind when I was raiding my spice cupboard. I knew I wanted that fierce kiss of heat and the arresting hit of cumin running through the whole thing. To my way of thinking, my mind is led towards Morocco. Indulge me and my wonky geography.
For the lamb
a shoulder of lamb (approx 1kg)
two cloves of smoked garlic
salt and pepper
For the stew:
two romano peppers
a red onion
two cloves of smoked garlic
a stick of cinnamon
a bay leaf
a can of chickpeas
two cans of chopped tomatoes
a bunch of mint
Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 / 170c and make sure your lamb is room temperature before you throw it into the oven (you know this already, I KNOW. Sorry for backseat driving in your kitchen). Prepare your spice rub by crushing your garlic in a pestle and mortar with some sea salt. Add in the rest of your spices (I know, I haven’t included quantities. I tend to be bold and heavy-handed on the cumin and chilli. You just want the lamb to get an intensely savoury crust so don’t worry too much.) Combine with a generous glug of oil and smear over the lamb. Put it in to roast for 35 minutes, after which add in a mug of boiling water. You’ll want to roast it for three hours now, turning and basting every hour with the juices from the tin. Add in more boiling water if towards the last hour it all evaporates. After three hours, remove from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes. Don’t throw away the juices, that’s going into the stew.
For the stew, start by charring the peppers on an open flame (I just stick them directly on the hob. Remember to pierce the peppers with a knife so that they don’t explode.) It’ll take about ten minutes for each pepper; you want to aim for blistered skin which is blackened in patches and for the pepper to be softened. In the meantime, roughly chop the onion and crush the garlic and gently fry in oil along with the spices and plenty of seasoning. Chop up the peppers and add into the pan. Chop the aubergines into generous chunks (bearing in mind that they shrink when cooking) and add in. Fry for a further ten minutes until everything is fully acquainted and coated in the happy mix of oil and spices. Deglaze your pan with a glass of red wine and then add in the two tins of chopped tomatoes. Stir to combine and then add in sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Throw in your cinnamon stick and bay leaf and leave to simmer for an hour. After an hour, add in the drained tin of chickpeas and simmer for a further half an hour, by which point the chickpeas should be soft and the aubergine should have imparted a silkiness to the whole thing. Add tomato puree to thicken and sriarcha sauce for that garlicky-tomatoey-chilli thing that it uniquely has. Once the lamb is out of the oven, add in the juices from the roasting tin. Just before serving, mix in chopped mint. Serve with a wedge of lemon and couscous or pitta bread.