I couldn’t resist the piles of pomegranates on sale at the international market yesterday. I’d been re-reading a much-loved old cook book of mine, Casa Moro, and it had got me craving middle eastern combinations of flavours. I already had some local lamb chops in the fridge and some canned chickpeas [garbanzo beans] in the cupboard. I also had some chopped red onions waiting to be used after I spent yesterday afternoon making videos of myself chopping onions for my new website. It is just rock and roll in my house, it really is.
So tonight, I knew I was only minutes away from a fast dinner that would scratch my itch, so to speak. The resulting dinner was perfect. The crunch and pop of slightly bitter, sweet pomegranate makes it so don’t leave them out. My boys gobbled theirs up, mopping up the chickpea mash with some warmed flat bread. Leftover chickpea mash will be re-purposed in their lunch boxes tomorrow along with some chopped up veggies and bread.
I know not everyone shares my love of lamb, if so you can make this with chicken or fish. You could also make this as a side with a roast leg of lamb for Easter.
Ingredients to feed 4 people:
8 small lamb chops or cutlets
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cans of chickpeas [garbanzo beans], drain one and leave the other with the liquid in
1 red onion, sliced into half moons or diced finely
1-2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped into slices
1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 pomegranate, or the seeds of a pomegranate
sea salt and black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil on a high heat in a saucepan (big enough to hold the chickpeas) then add the chopped onion. Stir and then drop the heat to medium so there is a sizzle but nothing too crazy. Stir every minute or so until the onion softens and starts to turn golden. This takes around 8-10 minutes.
2. While your onion cooks, heat a large frying pan. I use my Scanpan. You don’t need to add any oil but sprinkle each side of the lamb with sea salt and place the lamb chops fat side down (so they are sitting on their narrowest edge with the fat on the bottom of the pan and the bones sticking up. Doing this means that the fat will render, the fat will melt and come out into the pan and the fat on the lab will crisp up. This will take about 4 minutes. Once the bottom of the pan has a good covering of fat and the side of the lamb that is touching the pan is looking golden and crisp, turn the lamb so one of the two largest sides sits on the bottom of the pan. Cooking the lamb in its own fat makes it extra lamby and delicious.
3. By now your onion should be nice and golden and you should have your lamb cooking on one of the largest sides. Add the cumin and garlic to the onions, still on the heat, and stir for a minute before adding the two cans of chickpeas – one without liquid and one with. Stir and simmer for about 4 minutes until piping hot.
4. Flip your lamb if you haven’t already. I tend to cook mine for about 4 minutes on each side. This depends on the size of your chops and how cold they were when they went in the pan, I like mine pink in the middle, you may not. If in doubt take one chop out and cut into the middle to see how pink it is. Try not to hack it around too much. If it s too pink pop it back in the pan.
5. When your lamb is ready, put it onto a plate and cover it with foil. Leave it to rest for 4-5 minutes. This resting time will ensure it is wonderfully juicy and tender.
6. Put your chickpea and onion mixture into a food processor with a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a good grind of black pepper. Puree until smooth then taste and add more vinegar and salt and pepper if you feel it needs it. I always add quite a lot of vinegar to balance out the onion.
7. Serve your chickpea mash with the lamb on top, any juices that have collected in the resting plate spooned over and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds on top. I usually serve this with warm flat bread and a big arugula salad or roasted carrots and courgette [zucchini] as pictured. You could also sprinkle a little dukkah on the top.