A jewel of a party dish
This crispy lamb salad can be easily scaled up for big numbers, and will sit happily waiting to be eaten
Y ou know when you hanker after a certain dish that you see every now and then in a cookbook, but when you look at the length of time it takes to cook, or the five million steps you have to go through, you have a change of heart? The candied and pulled pork that taunts me in US restaurateur David Chang’s book looks pretty amazing, but the effort and time it takes seems too much for home cooking. Best leave that one to the professionals.
Sometimes I see lamb dishes like that, piled into some pita bread, and you imagine how wonderful it would taste, but attempts can be less successful.
However, I was gazing recently at a lamb and couscous salad from Heston Blumenthal and I liked the basic principles. Needless to say, I eliminated plenty of the prep and did a final bit of roasting and grilling that gave the lamb a crisp, caramelised edge that made it unbelievably moreish. The dish resembled the crispy duck you get in Chinese restaurants, but not as fatty, and much tastier.
Giant couscous is a great starchy salad that is well worth trying. It holds up well to strong flavours and doesn’t seem to suck all the flavours out of everything around it.
I brought this dish over to a friend’s house for dinner and it held up well, sitting out for most of the evening and it still held its flavour together. I had been hoping to bring the lamb remains home to eat in a pita bread, soaked with delicious tzatziki and some sort of chopped Greek salad and maybe a big blob of hummus, but my friend’s husband took the leftovers upstairs to his office and scoffed the lot, on the pretence that he didn’t want to disturb us ladies.
Lamb shanks are ideal to use once you cook them for long enough, pull the meat away, douse it with seasonings and grill the heck out of it. Long, slow cooking means all the fat and collagen break down. But be warned. Keep cooking until the meat really is falling off the bones. The second time I made this, they took two hours longer to cook than the first time. So start this the day before you want to eat it – at least the simmering part.
The salad is very quick to throw together, but you need to allow anything between three and five hours for the lamb to become tender enough.
CRISP SHREDDED LAMB
At least 2.5 litres chicken stock
4 lamb shanks
1-2 tsp mild curry powder
Pinch chilli flakes
Cook the lamb shanks in the chicken stock with the rosemary in a large saucepan with a lid – bring up to gentle simmer and cook on the stove for at least three hours. You can turn them over every 30 minutes or so, making sure they are well submerged. If you need to add more water, then do. You can also skim away any scum that appears on the surface. Make sure it is gently simmering rather than boiling rapidly. The meat should pull away with no effort when it’s cooked, so let nature and cooking take its course.