I know I should be partisan when it comes to lamb. I risk deportation and stripping of my citizenship to suggest that places other than Australia cook lamb better than we do. But I will risk the derision of my countrymen. A lamb cutlet on the barbecue is about as Aussie a dish as you can get. And it doesn’t need much to sing. Sea salt, pepper, a dash of garlic and some olive oil. But too often lamb in Australia is cooked up in deference to our British inheritance: a nice big leg on the bone, that has the absolute shit cooked out of it for hours, served up with mushy peas, spinach, and roast spuds and pumpkin. Done well, it is one of the best roasts around. Lamb has an amazing synergy with the traditional rosemary, and the inherent sweetness of the meat goes fantastically with peas and pumpkin. But done poorly the meat dries, and the main utility of the gravy is that it lets you swallow.
For my money, the best iterations of lamb are the way they do it in Greece, and in the Middle East. Oregano, garlic and lemon with a slow cooked shoulder? Heaven. But the Asiatic/ North African use of cumin wins for me every time.
This dish (excuse the romantic candlelit scene, but a bachelor does entertain) marries the Middle East with the British, and then freshens it up by presenting it as a warm salad. The pumpkin is roasted in cumin, and the peas are blanched straight so the mint can be presented fresh with the spinach. I advise letting the lamb rest so it can be served warm, and cooking it quite rare. Slice it ultra thin.
- 1 lamb backstrap fillet per person
- harissa paste (alternatively imporvise your own by combining paprika paste, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic paste and ras el hanout)
- chickpeas, tinned, rinsed and drained
- pumpkin, diced
- cumin seeds
- half a dozen cloves garlic, deskinned
- peas, frozen
- baby spinach
- olive oil
- Cover pumpkin and garlic with oil, salt, cumin (use liberally) and pepper. Roast for 30-40 min at 200C until soft.
- Blanch peas in salted boiling water. Drain.
- Marinade lamb in harissa for about an hour. Roast at 200C for about 12 minutes until pink. Rest for 30 min in foil. Slice ultra thin.
- Toss salad ingredients, then arrange lamb slices on top. Season and dress.
Enjoy with a pinot noir.