To be honest, the lamb and melon dish I had in Asitane wasn’t really something that I’d cook in my own restaurant, but I love the sweetness of the melon with the saltiness of the lamb so this dish pays homage to the Ottoman recipe and brings it into the 21st century.
Braised lamb shoulder
- ½ bunch saltbush (see Note)
- 2 brown onions, roughly chopped
- 1 bulb of garlic, cut across the equator
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1 lamb shoulder, bone in
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp cardamom pods, bruised
- 4 cloves
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp red pul biber (Aleppo pepper)
- 2 litres lamb stock
- 75 g (½ cup) raisins
- 80 g (½ cup) pine nuts, toasted
- ⅓ cup coriander leaves, chopped
Brik pastry collar
- 2 sheets Tunisian brik pastry (see Note)
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- sunflower oil, for shallow frying
- drizzle of olive oil
- 3 carrots, (about 400 g) peeled and grated
- 50 g butter
- 150 ml thickened cream
- 1 rockmelon
- 2 tbsp red pul biber (Aleppo pepper)
Puffed rice and grains
- 2 tbsp puffed quinoa
- 2 tbsp puffed amaranth
- 2 tbsp puffed millet
- 2 tbsp puffed rice
- 60 g butter
- 20 saltbush leaves
Suckling lamb cutlets
- 8 long bone suckling lamb cutlets, French trimmed
- 40 g unsalted butter
- 2 stems of saltbush
- baby red vein sorrel shoots
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 6 minutes
To make the braised lamb shoulder, preheat the oven to 160°C. Place the saltbush, onions, garlic, and half the lemon zest in a deep, heavy-based roasting pan. Place the lamb on top, scatter over the spices, then pour in the stock. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 3-4 hours or until the meat falls off the bone. Strain the liquid into a saucepan, discard the solids and simmer until reduced by half. Remove the meat from the bone, discard any excess fat and place in a bowl. Add the raisins, pine nuts, coriander and remaining lemon zest and just enough to lamb sauce to moisten. Combine well and keep warm until required.
Meanwhile, to make the brik collars, cut the pastry into 1.5 cm-wide strips. Brush the pastry strips on one side with egg yolk. Lightly grease the outside of eight 6 cm-wide steel cylindrical moulds or metal egg rings, then carefully wrap the brik pastry around it, with the egg brushed side facing out and overlapping the ends to make a seal. Heat 2cm olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the pastry, still wrapped around the moulds and shallow-fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towel and cool slightly before carefully removing the pastry from the moulds.
To make the carrot puree, heat a little oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the carrots and cook, without colouring, for 10 minutes or until tender. Add the cream and bring to the boil, then puree in a high powered blender until smooth. Season to taste and re-heat just before serving.
To make the compressed melon, peel and remove the seeds, then cut the flesh into 8 rectangles approximately 1.5 cm x 1.5 cm x 6 cm. Place the melon, pul biber and 80 ml (1/3 cup) of the lamb sauce in a cryovac bag (or a zip-lock bag), seal to remove all the air and refrigerate until required.
To make the puffed rice and grains, place the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. As soon as the butter begins to foam, add all the puffed grains and stir for 1 minute or until golden. Add the saltbush leaves and stir until the leaves are crisp. Remove from the heat and keep warm until needed.
Just before serving, preheat the oven to 180°C. Season each lamb cutlet on both sides with salt. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over high heat and cook the cutlets for 3 minutes on each side. Just before they’re done, add the butter and cook until foaming, then add the saltbush leaves and spoon the butter over the cutlets a few times to flavour. Remove from the pan and rest for 5 minutes. While the lamb is resting, pour the contents of the melon bag onto a lined oven tray, drizzle with a little oil and bake for 3-5 minutes or until just glossy.
To serve, spread a little carrot puree over each plate, then place a lamb cutlet parallel to it. Place a pastry collar on each plate and fill with the warm lamb mixture. Add a piece of warm melon and garnish with a spoonful of puffed grains. Scatter the plates with a few sorrel shoots and serve immediately.
• Saltbush- The fresh grey-blue leaves of this Australian native shrub are naturally salty yet delicate and slightly creamy tasting at the same time. They’re also very versatile- use the branches to flavour braises and the leaves to wrap food or in stir-fries. Available from specialty greengrocers.
• Tunisian brik pastry is a very thin pastry made from wheat flour, oil, salt and water. While used much in the same way as filo pastry, it is less flaky and fries well without absorbing too much oil. It is rolled into round sheets and sold in packets from Middle Eastern delicatessens and specialty food stores.