Last night we had a combination of several of our family favourites.
I got the slow-cooked greek lamb recipe from a friend a few years ago, and its sensational. Though like any slow-cooked dish you need to start cooking well-in-advance of course! On the other hand one of the great benefits of slow cooking is that your house smells fantastic all afternoon.
The Moutabal (essentially tahini and roasted eggplants), similar if not identical to baba ghannouj, and Cacik (yoghurt, mint and cucumber), a turkish version of tzatziki, are recipes from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer book.
To round it off we also had our latest, favourite way to cook potatoes - new potatoes, a mix of white and pink, par-boiled then slightly-smashed and then roasted in olive oil, fresh thyme and salt. We got this recipe from Annabel Langbein's book, "The Free Range Cook". Langbein is a sensational cook, and has quickly become one of our favourites, but more of that another time.
If you like, you can also eat a simple green salad of a variety of lettuce leaves and a little oil and vinegar (eg balsamic).
Slow cooked Greek Lamb
Put the leg of lamb (bone in) on a rack in a baking tray. In a bowl, mix together a quarter of a cup of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, two cloves of garlic and one teaspoon of dried oregano. Pour over lamb and season with salt and a little pepper. Put water in the baking tray, as much as you can without touching the lamb. Put in an oven pre-heated to 160 degrees. Cook for 3 to 4 hours uncovered. Baste every hour. Cover with alfoil and cook for another two hours. Covering stops it from drying out - all those flavours steam through the meat. You want it to cook till it is so soft you just pull the meat off the bone with tongs - no carving! You may need to experiment with timing to get it perfect for your oven. But if it still needs a little carving the first time - don't worry it will still taste wonderful. After cooking, the rest the meat for 15 - 20 minutes (as always this is essential for any roasted meat, and grilled steaks) then put on a platter, drizzle with lemon juice and chopped parsley. Take the platter to the table and let the diners pull meat off the bone for themselves, it's a deeply satisfying thing to do.
This is a fantastic accompaniment for lamb in particular, or as part of a vegetarian feast. It's also great as a dip on toast or some fresh bread the next day. It is also great for Aussies because you can roast the eggplants (aubergines) on the barbie while you're heating it up. I often roast some capsicums this way too. The barbie is best because you blacken the skins and that seems to add to the flavour.
You roast 3 good-sized eggplants. Make sure you stab each one several times with a fork first. Eggplants have a lot of moisture in them and if you don't pierce the skins the eggplants will explode when the water turns into steam. This happened to me once - not good. Mix four tablespoons of tahini in a bowl with a tablesppon of warm water and a teaspoon of salt. When the eggplants have collapsed (meaning the flesh is nice and soft inside) take them off the barbie and put in a bowl to cool. When they are cool enough to handle drain away the liquid then cut each eggplant lengthwise so you can scrape out the flesh with a spoon. Put the flesh in a strainer and leave it for 15 minutes to let more liquid drain away. Then put the eggplant flesh in with the tahini and add two tablesppons of oil and the juice of one and a half lemons. Next you mash it with a fork. Mash it well until it is soft and creamy and the eggplant is completely integrated. Taste and add more salt if you like. Nigella adds a mince clove of garlic before serving but I'm not that keen preferring it without.
Moutabal is a lot simpler then the above might suggest. It is addictive and it must be very good for you! It is often called baba ghannouj but to me this recipe is yummier - maybe it's just because it's fresh or because the eggplants are roasted, often they are broiled in Lebanese recipes.
Yoghurt of some sort is great with slow-cooked lamb. I used about 500ml of greek yoghurt, a teaspoon of dried mint, a clove of minced garlic, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a bunch of chopped mint leaves, a cucumber finely chopped. You just mix all the ingredients and taste it to make sure its balanced. I put it in the fridge for an hour or two to make it nice and cold.
We love to cook these small potatoes this way. It is quick and no peeling and we get to use some fresh thyme from the garden. Par-boil the potatoes until almost tender. Place in a roasting tray, crush each slightly with the back of a fork. Drizzle oil to coat generously, add a bunch of chopped thyme and some sea salt. Mix it all up with your hands to make sure the potatoes are well-covered. Put in a hot oven until they go nice and brown.