Wednesday 16 May 2012

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Citrus Couscous Salad

This dish of spicy lamb chops and citrussy couscous salad is one of my favourite happy-hybrid inventions. It’s largely Moroccan in its spicing, but it also contains a popular and versatile Middle Eastern ingredient: pomegranate concentrate. This delicious elixir (also known in its many forms as pomegranate syrup, reduction and molasses) is made by simmering fresh pomegranate juice down to a tart-sweet syrup filled with fruity flavours. This is the sixth in a series of recipes for Woolworths South Africa, pantry sponsors of MasterChef South Africa.

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Citrus Couscous salad. Plate by David Walters

Cooks are often told on MasterChef and other reality shows to exercise caution when mixing ingredients from different regions, or indeed from diverse flavour ‘families’. I think this is advice worth following. Honey doesn’t go with mashed potatoes or fresh linefish, for example, and nutmeg and rocket are sworn enemies.

But, if you’re an adventurous cook, it’s worth keeping your mind open and trying out interesting flavour combinations. If you want to experiment, the best advice I can give you is to choose ingredients from regions that are geographically adjacent.  For example, because of the influence of the Moors, the cuisines of the Iberian Peninsula are compatible with the cooking of North Africa. Israeli cooking has much in common with Lebanese, Greek and Turkish food, and so on.

And all of the above are compatible with pomegranate, that most lovely and ancient fruit. (Although I do think that the seeds must be used judiciously. I see these "rubies", as magazines like to call them, scattered over everything but the cat these days. Pomegranate seeds strewn prettily across a salad  or dessert may improve the look of the dish, but - like the ubiquitous micro herbs so loved by chefs - they don't necessarily add much to its taste.)

My other recipes for Woolworths #wooliespantry:

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Citrus Couscous Salad

12 small lamb chops
4 Tbsp (60 ml) lemon juice
4 Tbsp (60 ml) pomegranate concentrate
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
1 tsp (5 ml) dried mint
black pepper
1½ cups (375 ml) couscous
2 cups (500 ml) very hot water
a tin of chickpeas, drained
100 g slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup (80 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
the seeds of a pomegranate [optional]

For the dressing:
finely grated zest of a large orange
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
6 Tbsp (90 ml) fresh lemon juice
5 Tbsp (75 ml) fresh orange juice
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) dried coriander
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the lamb chops in a non-metallic dish. Whisk together the lemon juice, pomegranate reduction, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and mint. Pour the marinade over the chops and toss, using your hands, so that each chop is coated. Season with black pepper, cover and set aside for two or three hours.

In the meantime, start the couscous salad. Put the couscous in a deep bowl and pour in the hot (not boiling; see Cook’s Notes) water. Immediately cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside to steam, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.

Uncover the couscous and, using a fork, gently scratch at the surface, lightly fluffing the grains so they separate. Add the chickpeas and dressing to the still-warm couscous and toss to coat. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Cover and set aside at room temperature while the chops are marinating.

Heat your oven’s grill.  Season the chops with salt and place in a roasting pan. Grill the chops, not too close to the heat, for about 4-5 minutes on either side (or until done to your liking), basting with the pan juices and leftover marinade now and then. Watch them closely, as the sugar in the pomegranate syrup may cause them to scorch.

Stir the toasted almonds, parsley, mint and pomegranate seeds into the couscous and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve the chops piping hot with the couscous on the side.

Serves 4. 

 Try this couscous salad with other ingredients from the Mediterranean region: crumbled feta, green olives, chopped preserved lemon, pistachios, and so on.

 Leave the dried mint out of the marinade if you can’t find it. It’s easy to make your own dried mint – place a bunch of leaves in a very low oven, with the fan on, and leave them until they’re completely dry.  Crumble and store in a sealed jar.

 Most ‘instant’ couscous recipes specify boiling water, but I’ve found that hot water produces the best result.  If you’re not confident about preparing couscous, follow the instructions on the packet.

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1 comment:

gloeiwurmpie said...

I made this and it was great!! I have never made lamb chops in the oven before out of fear of a huge mess. It turned out to be so easy and no mess at all. The dressing of the cous cous is perfect and I have started to make the cous cous (without the lamb chops) regularly as a light lunch. Even my husband who said that cous cous tasted like a macdonalds cardboard box said that it was the best cous cous he has ever tasted. Thanks for the great recipe!