Comin’ at ya this morning with another spring inspired recipe. I actually came up with this recipe in December while I was living in Doha where spring vegetables are always in season. I tried writing this out and posting it then but it just didn’t seem right. But the season is finally here and I feel ready.
I think Spring is my favorite season for produce. All those yummy root vegetables get their time to shine. Especially parsnips, which if you ask me, are super underrated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some bad parsnips. But done right, they’re absolutely delicious. The parsnip puree in my roasted duck recipe is good enough to replace any mashed potato. In this recipe the parsnips are slow roasted under the lamb in a lake of broth and spices and they soak up every ounce of flavor. They’re juicy and burst in your mouth when you bite into them. They become little flavor bombs.
Now let’s talk about the Middle Eastern elements in this dish. My dad is from Sudan and has always loaded his rice with all sorts of spices that I would have never thought belonged in savory foods. Cinnamon, clove, anise, cardamom, and saffron. It’s so aromatic and flavorful it could be an entire meal all on its own. He added mint to his hot sauce and would put pomegranate seeds on top of anything. When I was a kid I thought he was crazy, mostly cause I was a picky little sh*t. But visiting Sudan as well as getting to live in the Middle East for 6 months taught me an appreciation and love for these things. I learned so much about the versatility of spices and acid. It’s not all just salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice. I learned that meat here is always roasted slowly under low heat until it falls off the bone. They roast huge cuts of meat (for example an entire leg of lamb) because food is meant to be shared. The flavors and techniques used to cook Middle Eastern food create such intensely bold dishes that you could never find anywhere else. So I want to share that with you in this recipe so you can share those flavors with your friends and family.
My favorite thing about this meal is that it really requires almost no work and no equipment. All you need is a roasting pan, a pot for rice, and a blender. Plus, it’s very hands off. You set the lamb and vegetables in one pan to roast and let it be for the next four hours. Make the pesto right away and leave it in the fridge to let the flavors come together. Once the lamb is finished, make the rice and there you have it. A feast for 5 with almost no clean up.
When To Make It
This recipe is a full meal for 5 to 7 people, as all Middle Eastern recipes are. Dishes are made for sharing and sharing food, especially when ingredients like saffron are used, is a sign off generosity. I made this meal one night when my dad had some people over, one Qatari man, and his friend, a member of the royal family of Qatar (things like this happen in Qatar). So when I made it, I wanted it to be very grand with lots to offer to someone who has everything.
You might not be cooking for a royal, but if you have a large family that you love very much and a day off to put it all together, it could make a great Sunday night dinner. It’s a great meal to enjoy with lots of friends and a great bottle of wine. One year my neighborhood got together to form an “around the world dinner”. Each family drew countries out of a hat and each week a different family cooked a traditional meal from that country and we all had dinner. It was a great way to try new foods and this recipe would be perfect to feed that kind of a crowd. If you’re not looking to feed a crowd you could always cut this recipe down. Make a smaller batch of rice, use lamb chops instead of an entire leg, and cut the vegetables into smaller pieces to roast them quicker. It could easily make a great date-night-in meal for two.
|Prep Time: 45 Min||Cook Time: 4-5 Hours||Oven Temp: 325º F||Difficulty: Medium|
For the Lamb
- 1 Leg of Lamb
- 10 Cloves of Garlic (about 1 head), peeled
- 5 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary, picked
- 1/2 Bunch of Cilantro
- 1 Lemon, juiced
- 1/2C Olive Oil
- 5 TBSP Cumin
- Salt and Pepper
For the Spring Vegetables
- 5-7 Large Parsnips, peeled
- 20 Baby Carrots, cleaned and tops removed and set aside
- 1 Head of Cauliflower
- 3 large turnips, peeled
- 4 C Beef or Chicken stock, I used chicken.
- 3 TBSP Soy Sauce
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Head of Garlic, cut in half
- 5 Sprigs of Rosemary
For the Rice
- 3C Basmati Rice
- A generous drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 C Golden Raisins
- 3 TBSP Saffron
- 1 TBSP Turmeric, whole or ground
- 3 Dried limes, if you don’t have dried limes you can use 1 regular lime, cut in half
- 1 TBSP Allspice, whole or ground
- 1/2 TBSP Clove, whole or ground
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon, or one cinnamon stick
- 1 TBSP Salt
For the Mint and Carrot Top Pesto
- 1/2 C Carrot Tops, roughly chopped
- 1/3 C Mint, picked and roughly chopped
- 1/4 C Cilantro, roughly chopped
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- 1 Jalapeño, seeds removed
- 1/4 C EVOO
- 1/4 C Walnuts
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Plain Yogurt, seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and chopped cilantro
- Pomegranate Seeds
- Chopped Mint
- Preheat oven to 325ºF.
- Salt the lamb leg generously.
- In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients for the lamb leg (peeled garlic, rosemary, cilantro, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper) and drizzle the oil in while blending.
- Rub the mixture all over the lamb leg. Set aside.
- Chop all vegetables to similar sized pieces and place them in the bottom of the roasting pan along with the other seasonings, lemon juice, broth, and soy sauce.
- Place a rack over the vegetables, place the lamb on the rack. Side note, I actually don’t even have a roasting pan, if you’re in the same boat, just use a casserole pan and place the lamb directly on top of the veg.
- Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven and roast the lamb 25-30 minutes per pound for a medium roast, or 160º. For well done (170º), roast the lamb 30-35 minutes per pound.
- While the lamb is roasting be sure to check it every 30-45 minutes and use the juices in the bottom of the pan to baste.
- In the meantime, you can make the pesto by combining the mint, cilantro, carrot tops, garlic, jalapeño, walnuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a blender. While blending, drizzle in oil to emulsify.
- Cover and leave in the fridge until 30 minutes before ready to serve. Chilling the mixture immediately helps to maintain the color. This also allows the flavors to come together fully. Bringing it to room temp before serving allows the oil to thaw out and the full flavor to come through.
- About 30 minutes before the lamb is finished, start the rice.
- Bloom the saffron in lemon juice by adding it to the juice and let it set until the color starts to come out. Then pour the mixture back and forth between two bowls.
- Prepare the rice according to the directions on the package, except add all the spices above, the raisins, and the saffron. If using ground spices, add them directly to the water. If you’re using whole spices make sure to make a sachet from cheese cloth or a coffee filter and butchers twine.
- When the lamb is done, allow it to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
- Serve the lamb on a bed of rice and vegetables with the pesto on the side. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and chopped mint.
If you enjoyed this recipe please like, comment, or share! As always, good luck and enjoy!