I love cooking with lamb, its absolutely my favourite meat. Lamb works so well with strong, earthy flavours, and tastes fantastic with yoghurt based sauces.
A few days ago, I managed to get home early enough to catch an episode of MasterChef Australia. One of the top 7 contestants made an amazing African-Inspired dish of dukkah crusted lamb with baba ganoush. Hubby and I were transfixed. This is my version of her dish.
I started by coating 8 lamb cutlets with my dukkah mix (see my post on Hazelnut Dukkah).
I cooked the lamb without oil in a non-stick pan for about 10 minutes, turning them every minute or so to prevent the dukkah burning. In the MasterChef episode, the contestant seared the lamb on both sides and baked the cutlets in the oven. I was planning to do that, but they ended up cooking through quite well in the pan. I was worried that they would burn, but they ended up with a nice dark crispy crust.
Meanwhile, I prepared my quinoa salad.
A dish like this would normally be served with couscous, but we prefer quinoa and it seems to work as a perfect substitute for cousous. We love quinoa for the taste and texture – the health benefits are just an added bonus!
For anyone who hasn’t cooked with quinoa before, you cook it just as you would cook rice. It has a nutty bite and is really delicious.
Some people complain the quinoa is bitter. It can be – you need to rinse it before cooking it in order to wash away the bitter taste of the saponin, a natural coating which protects the quinoa from predators.
As a side note, I learnt a neat trick a few weeks ago (again, courtesy of MasterChef, this time from my hero, Heston Blumenthal!) If anything you cook (like quinoa) ends up being bitter, don’t try to counteract the bitterness with sugar. Instead, add salt. Apparently saltiness plus bitter equals sweet. I don’t understand the chemistry, but it works.
I cooked the quinoa until it was soft and fluffly, adding zucchinni, onion and capsicum.
Just before serving, I also added a splash of olive oil, some dates, baby spinach, lemon juice, coriander and salt and pepper.
I picked a large serving platter, and placed the warm quinoa salad down the middle, topped with the shredded baby spinach and coriander. I have been going a bit crazy with coriander lately, as the local green grocer has been selling massive bunches for 50 cents!
On either side of the quinoa, I dolloped harissa yogurt (I just mixed store-bought harissa with natural yoghurt), and placed the lamb cutlets on top, leaning against the salad.
Finally, I sprinkled the dish with finely sliced red grapes. In the MasterChef episode, the dish was topped with pomegranate seeds. Hubby loves pomegranate, but I couldn’t find them for sale anywhere in our area. I decided to replicate the colour and fruity crunch of pomegranate with finely sliced red grapes. It worked really well.
As this was a Saturday night meal, we had a bottle of wine to accompany the dish. I wanted a red wine to go with the earthy flavours, but I thought the meal would work best with a lighter red. I asked hubby if he could find a pinot noir in our wine rack. We don’t normally drink pinot, but happily he found one.
It was a New Zealand “Crimson” Pinot Noir, from the Ata Rangi winery. It was surprising gutsy for a pinot, and worked beautifully with the meal.