Lamb is traditional at Easter – the pascal lamb.
Dianne says: “This year, rather than a roast leg of lamb, I’ve settled on lamb shanks. It does away with bothersome carving and allows everyone to jump right in and help themselves. The recipe however is suitable for both cuts of meat. Lamb lends itself to any number of flavour combinations from Greek to Italian, not forgetting our traditional South African glazed saddle of lamb. Today however, I’m leaning towards Middle Eastern cuisine, where the bold use of spices help to create food that’s truly unique and unparalleled in flavour.
Since my first trip to Israel in 1989 to work on a kibbutz, I’ve been struck with a deep affection for the unusual tastes of this ancient land. On leaving the Kibbutz, we explored the bustling cobbled streets of Old Jerusalem, slowly making our way to a more modern and vibrant Tel Aviv. Sleeping on side walks and ramshackle rooftop hovels aimed at penniless backpackers, a greedily devoured street food meal was the highlight of our day. Pita breads stuffed with slithers of pink lamb, fresh salads and tahini. Pure heaven. I distinctly remember one vendor adding a handful of deep-fried potato chips to the offering, which at the time I thought smacked of Americanism, but when you’re starving, the only thing you’ll refuse is blows to the head.
Lamb shawarma has long since reached iconic status far beyond the borders of the Middle East. Come to think of it, what better way to eat a roast, originally intended for formal table dining, than in a handheld pita-pocket sandwich. Genius! Exercising some creative latitude, I’ve deviated slightly from traditional by including a splash of red wine and a little stock. The result is a chestnut-coloured pan gravy that coats the meat and keeps it from drying out. As Ottolenghi, the go-to-guru for all things Middle Eastern, says in his book, Jerusalem. – The best way to eat a shawarma is with warm pita pockets piled high with slices of warm lamb, finely chopped onion, parsley and a smattering of sumac. Finish with the quintessential salad of fresh tomato and cucumber. If your Easter celebration leads you in this direction, I’d include a bowl of hummus and a tabbouleh inspired bulgar wheat salad to your offering. Alternatively, roast potatoes with all the trimmings will come a close, but satisfying good second.”
Slow-roast lamb shawarma
Preparation time 30 mins
Cooking time 4 hours
Total time 4 hours 30 mins
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried, red chilli flakes
½ cup red wine
¾ cup weak meat stock
6 free-range lamb shanks, excess fat trimmed
2-3 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, to finish
For the marinade, place the garlic, olive oil and all the aromatics into a bowl. Stir to combine.
Pour the marinade over the meat and rub in. Massaging the marinade in by hand is the best way to do this.
Place the shanks in a non-metallic dish, cover and allow to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Bring the lamb up to room temperature.
Transfer the lamb to a roasting tin. Season with salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Cover with foil and roast for 2 hours.
Turn the shanks over. Add the onions to the roasting tin and pour in the red wine and stock.
Cover with the foil and roast for a further 90 minutes. If the liquid reduces too rapidly, just add a little extra water.
Remove the foil and baste the meat with the pan juices.
Turn the oven temperature up to 200ºC and roast for a further 20-30 minutes.
Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, cover with foil and allow to rest for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE
Dianne Bibby is a former fashion designer, turned food enthusiast and avid cook. At 36 she hung up her fashionable hat, tied on her kitchen apron and started on a new culinary journey.
Her kitchen is a creative gathering place where meals are shared with family and friends, celebrating life and nurturing our connectivity. For Dianne food is relational and pivotal to the way in which she expresses love, care and hospitality. Currently she spends most of her time developing recipes and teaching group cooking classes.
Says Dianne, “My food philosophy is relatively uncomplicated with inspiration being drawn from diverse global food trends and seasonal produce. My recipes are not exclusively tied to any particular food preference but rather an exploration of all foods that are vibrant and fresh.”
Dianne hopes that you will be motivated and inspired to try something new, making the time you spend in the kitchen deeply satisfying and rewarding.
She’d love to hear from you – CLICK HERE