nigel’s top ten – couscous-stuffed lamb

This is my final recipe from Nigel Slater’s top ten - roast lamb with couscous and red onions. I have to confess, I wasn’t keen on this – I love slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, cooked on the bone for maximum flavour, and having to de-bone and stuff it with couscous (and not particularly excitingly-flavoured couscous at that) wasn’t particularly appealing. However, David was keen so we made a deal – he’d cook this one!

So, how did we get on?                                                                                        

It’s an easy recipe to pull together – “just fry some onions and make some couscous” apparently. David used dried cranberries instead of golden sultanas and we decided to cook it for longer and at a lower temperature than suggested (our de-boned joint weighed 2.1kg and was cooked at 220c for 20 mins and then just over 2 hours at 180).

I was amazed by how far the couscous stretched – 90g was sufficient to stuff our larger-than-suggested shoulder and was ample for the six of us (plenty of leftovers, which have been turned into a lamb and pomegranate pilaf of sorts which will provide packed lunches for the week).

The flavours are subtle, with a hint of spice, which gives you licence to be more imaginative with your side dishes – we had Moro's fennel flatbreads, roasted vegetables with saffron yoghurt dressing (recipe to come) and a lettuce, tomato and artichoke salad.

The final verdict:
Would I have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of Nigel’s top ten?
 No – it didn’t look interesting enough, and there are so many more appealing roast lamb recipes out there!
Would I try this recipe again in the future? Yes – it’s easy and surprisingly delicious, a perfect way to end the top ten challenge.

nigel slater’s roast lamb with couscous and red onions (april 2009) serves 6

a shoulder of lamb about 1.3kg

1 large red onion

olive oil

90g fine couscous

200ml boiling water

a handful of golden sultanas (we used dried cranberries)

½ a teaspoon of ground cumin

2 large pinches of cinnamon

peel and thinly slice the onion, then let it soften in a little olive oil over a moderate heat, stirring from time to time. it is ready when soft and golden. put the couscous in a bowl and pour over the water. leave for 10 minutes. set the oven at 220c/gas mark 8.

fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains. stir in the softened onion, the sultanas and the spices. season generously then stuff the mixture into the pocket inside the lamb.

pull the meat over the stuffing and seal with a skewer or tie with string.

place the stuffed lamb in a roasting tin, scattering any spare stuffing around the outside and rub a little olive oil over the fat. pour a glass of water into the roasting tin and place in the oven.

roast the lamb for 20 minutes then lower the heat to 200c/gas mark 6, and continue roasting for 40 minutes until the fat is crisp and golden and  the meat juices run clear when pierced with a skewer (we cooked our 2.1kg joint at 220c for 20 mins and then a couple of hours at 180c). remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.