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This was our last feast of 2020, the year that we cooked more than any other. It helped us to have a shared interest and something to entertain us in the evenings when we couldn’t do anything else. We miss sharing our food with friends and family but we’re hoping it will return before too long. We served this with Muhammara (a roasted red pepper and walnut dip), sumac yoghurt (see below) and a rice dish. You need to start a day ahead and in fact it works well if you cook the whole thing in advance and reheat to serve. 

Wine Suggestion: A gem of a discovery in 2020 after reading an article by Jancis Robinson was the Thymiopoulos, Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro. A vibrant and exciting red from Náoussa in Greece this grape we’ll be exploring more as we found it had elegance, hints of Mediterranean sunshine and gentle, middle eastern spices.

Pulled lamb shawarma – serves 8

  • 3 onions, 1 roughly chopped and the other 2 cut into wedges
  • 2 heads of garlic, 1 cut in half horizontally, and 8 cloves from the other roughly chopped
  • 25g piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 20g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2-2.5kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
  • 700ml chicken stock
  • ½ a lemon
  • salt and black pepper

FOR THE SUMAC YOGHURT:

  • 200g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 60g tahini
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sumac

Make the spice paste by putting the chopped onion into a food processor with the chopped garlic and ginger. Pulse until finely minced, then add the parsley and spices. Pulse for another few seconds, until just combined. Scrape down the sides, then add the vinegar, oil, 2¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Pulse again to form a coarse paste, then transfer to a non-metallic container that can hold the lamb. 

Pat the lamb dry and pierce all over with a small, sharp knife. Put the lamb into the dish with the spice paste and coat generously in the mixture, so that it is covered on all sides. Cover with foil and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. 

Take the lamb out of the fridge an hour before you start cooking so it comes to room temperature. 

Preheat the oven to 140C fan. 

Put the onion wedges and the halved garlic bulb into the centre of a large roasting tray and pour over the chicken stock. Sit the lamb on top of the veg, then cover tightly with foil and bake for 4 hours. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and continue to bake for another 90 minutes, increasing the temperature to 160C for the last 30 minutes. The lamb should be very soft and come away easily from the bone. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then shred the lamb directly into the pan juices. Transfer the lamb with the pan juices, onions and garlic cloves to a large serving bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice.

To make the sumac yoghurt, put the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, the sumac and ¼ tsp of salt into a bowl and whisk well to combine.

Serve the lamb with the yoghurt alongside. We served with a rice dish and a dip but you can also serve with pitta breads, sliced tomatoes, red onions and herbs – a lamb shawarma sandwich.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.) 

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