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Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Couscous, Dates and Almonds

Claudia Roden

by Claudia Roden from Med: A Cookbook

Studded with sweet, plump dates and nutty almonds, Claudia Roden's slow-roasted lamb makes a stunning centrepiece. Serve it at your next big gathering along with roasted vegetables and spiced rice.

From the book

Claudia Roden

Introduction

Shoulder of lamb is what I cook when I have many meat eaters to feed. Slow roasting makes the meat meltingly tender and juicy. I once made this shoulder with a date syrup glaze and couscous with dates for a dinner for the artist Michael Rakowitz. His sculpture on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square – representing the ancient statue of the Lamassu, the winged bull with a human head that was destroyed by ISIS in Iraq – was made out of empty date syrup tins. Dates have something of a sacred character in an Arab culture born in the desert. They symbolise hospitality and are said to have been a favourite food of the Prophet Muhammad. Their sweetness complements the sweetness of the meat. I love the combination.

I also serve slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with roasted vegetables (pages 122 or 129 of Med), and with the spiced rice on page 153 of Med.

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Ingredients

1 whole bone-in shoulder of lamb
250g couscous
1 tbsp orange blossom water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
150g pitted dates, cut into small pieces
50g seedless raisins
100g blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp date syrup, plus more to pass around in the jar
65g butter, cut into small pieces
salt and black pepper
To garnish:
8 - 12 dates
8-12 blanched almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/gas 9.

Put the joint, skin-side up, in a baking dish or roasting tin, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 160°C/140ºC fan/gas 3 and cook for 4 hours until the skin is crisp and brown and the meat is juicy and meltingly tender. Pour off the fat after about 2 hours.

Put the couscous in another baking dish, in which you can serve it. Add the same volume of warm water – about 300ml – mixed with a little salt, the orange blossom water and cinnamon, and pour it over the couscous, stirring well so that the water is absorbed evenly. Leave for about 10 minutes, then add the oil and rub the grains between your hands above the dish to aerate the couscous and break up any lumps.

Mix in the dates, raisins and chopped almonds, cover with foil, and put in the oven with the lamb for the last 20 minutes or until it is steaming hot.

Before serving, pour the date syrup over the meat. Stir the butter into the couscous so that it melts in and is absorbed evenly. With a fork, fluff up the couscous, breaking up any lumps. Add a little salt to taste, if necessary.

For the garnish, remove the stones from each date and replace them with the blanched almonds; decorate the couscous with these dates. Serve the meat with the couscous. Pass the date syrup around for people who may want some more.

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From the book: Med: A Cookbook

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