Barbecue season has hit fast and furiously. Invites are thrown out without a second thought, which really is the best kind of weekend get together. The cool box is bursting its seams, its door opening as soon as someone else closes it. Sunglasses are a cool facial fixture, hats are for the over-cautious! Parents try desperately to keep hold of wee outstretched arms and legs, while slathering sunscreen on children straining to dive bomb the pool. They are like dogs on leads with a bone dangling in front of them! Once the pesky little ones are in the water, us adults can kick back, relax and enjoy the sun. It also seems to be the time that blokes bring out the vest tops and floral motif shirts opened to the third button ala Simon Cowell. Dudes….???
And of course, there’s the food. No point in protesting – it’s a meat fest, a man-food heavy indulgence. Might as well go with it while the first ardour of the season burns hot. The Scotsman brandishes his long handled tongs like a shorts and t-shirt armoured warrior, albeit with a cold pint of something bubbly sitting comfortably in the other hand. Amongst the vast patties of homemade burgers, fat sausages and sticky chicken wings, sit these burnished beauties, Harissa Lamb Chops and they are always requested by The Scotsman. And it has to have my tahini sauce.
Harissa rates as one of my all time favourite blow-your-head-off condiments. The only other one I know to get me acting like I’m standing on hot coals is the bottled Louisiana Hot Sauce. Yowzers! Harissa, the way I make it (and that’s Nigella’s recipe) has the edge due to the heavy use of coriander and caraway seeds. And that makes it wonderful when slapped on meaty lamb chops. I marinade it overnight in harissa, lemon juice, garlic and crushed coriander seeds and grill till blushing pink in the middle and caramelised on the outside.
For us, this incredibly simple, buff coloured tahini sauce, goes sensationally with it. Its creamy feel and nutty flavour partner the hot, aromatic lamb to perfection. A salad of parsley, which is used as a salad leaf rather than a garnish, mixed with macerated onion slices and tomatoes keep things simple and fresh. Or consider a jewelled, pomegranate studded, fluffy couscous salad, with a heavy handed use of toasted pine nuts and parsley, to keep the carb brigade satisfied. Or let’s cut to the chase here – a potato salad – will happily sort that part out.
I also love to serve a pepper ‘salad’ and have to say, have converted reluctant blokes to my way of thinking. The sweet, smoky flavour of the grilled, skinned, soft peppers works particularly well with barbecued food. That’s a separate post though, as they ate it before I could get a picture, which I suppose, is a good thing!
In the meantime, here’s to the summer, ice teas, flip flops and tan lines!
Harissa Lamb Chops, with Tahini Sauce & Parsley Salad
2-3 tbsp of harissa (add according to your taste)
juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp regular olive oil
Toast the coriander seeds in an oil-less pan on low-medium heat, until the seeds change to a slightly deeper colour and release a heady, citrussy aroma. Take off the heat immediately and coarsely pound in a mortar and pestle. Combine all the marinade ingredients, including the crushed seeds and mix well. Pour into a freezer bag and add the lamb chops. Close the bag and mix/squelch the bag around to coat the chops in the marinade. Leave to marinade for at least 6 hours or preferably, overnight. Shake off the excess marinade, sprinkle well with salt. Cook in a frying pan/grill pan for 3-4 minutes a side for a blushing pink centre (depending on the thickness of your chops. Mine were about 3/4 of an inch thick) or on the barbecue. Take off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. Serve with the tahini sauce.
This gives quite a creamy, mellower sesame tasting sauce. Sometimes, I want a richer tahini taste, in which case I add less of the yoghurt. Other days I want it quite sharp with lemon. Also, if you have roasted garlic cloves lying around, they are wonderful in here, but add judiciously or it will overpower everything else. This is just a basic blueprint. Make it to please your palate.
1/4 cup tahini (the Middle Eastern type, which is quite smooth, loose and creamy)
1/4 cup of natural yoghurt (low fat is fine)
half a clove of garlic, minced
Lemon juice to taste
A few tablespoons of warm water if necessary
Salt to taste.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, optional
Mix the tahini with the yoghurt and garlic. It will thicken and seem like it’s seizing, which is okay. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon and mix. If it’s still too thick, add enough warm water to make it a smooth, soft consistency. Check for taste – it should be nutty with the sesame, tangy with the lemon and creamy with the yoghurt. Adjust these three ingredients to get a balance you like. Add salt to taste and decant into a serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle on sesame seeds or some paprika if the fancy takes you.
Parsley and Onion Salad
A big bunch of parsley, torn roughly. Discard the lower, tougher part of the stems
One smallish onion, sliced finely
2 tbsp of white or red wine vinegar
Handful of chopped cherry tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, optional
1 teaspoon of sumac, optional
About an hour before you intend to serve the salad, place the sliced onions in a bowl along with the vinegar. Leave it to macerate. When ready to serve, tear up the parsley and place in a serving bowl. Strew the mellowed, sweeter onion slices over the parsley along with the tomatoes. If you want to make a dressing, whisk some of the onion infused vinegar with olive oil, salt and pepper and dress the salad sparingly with it. Sprinkle over the sumac, if using and serve.
Recipe from http://thepatternedplate.com/