Dukkah Dusted Lamb Cutlets with Quinoa and Aubergine Salad
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
With more daylight and the prospect of early summer soon arriving, this is enough to change my mindset and the way I think about food. It’s incredible but they do say that most cooks and chefs are very emotional and their feelings influence their work, in a similar way to artists. I see myself as an artist in my own right, and yes, my immediate environment and feelings definitely influence my cooking, recipe creations and work.
With the season slowly changing and baby lambs becoming a familiar sight in the fields around us, this encourages me to cook with lamb. I have been making this dukkah-coated dish for some time now and finally I have a reason to document it as a recipe for the British Larder.
What is dukkah, you may ask? Well, it’s a spice and nut blend originally from Egypt. Each household in Egypt has their own recipe and they blend their own dukkah spice according to their taste. It’s used as a garnish over vegetables and salads or as a cooking ingredient mixed with oil, juice and sometimes honey, to coat meats. The dukkah spice and nut blend is a great storecupboard ingredient. You can purchase ready-made blends or make your own like this recipe of mine.
I incorporate ingredients that I like into my dukkah mix and store it in a small spice pot alongside the rest of my spices. It’s an especially lovely touch to add to North African-style dishes, or to transform plain steamed rice, simply add a few teaspoons of the dukkah spice to the hot rice and toss to mix, then serve it at your barbecue gatherings this summer to create that ultimate wow factor (see also Cook’s Notes).
I serve these delicious dukkah-dusted lamb cutlets with a quinoa and aubergine salad. The aubergines are cooked using a hot griddle pan and then marinated in a delicious marinade made from olive oil, honey, pomegranate molasses and orange blossom vinegar. Aubergines are easy to get wrong and hard to inject with flavour, but this combination is a winner, the flavours work well and the end result is very tasty aubergines indeed!
Quinoa is a seed that is similar to a grain and it originates from South America. It’s gluten-free, easy to digest and high in protein (quinoa has more nutritional value than rice or wheat). Both the brown and white varieties of quinoa are regularly available in the UK, from good supermarkets or health food stores. It’s very important to remember to cook quinoa correctly, I cook it like rice and not like instant couscous. It should boil rapidly at least for 12–15 minutes in plenty of water.
To complete this delicious recipe, I simply serve it with some natural yogurt. The cutlets can be cooked in a griddle or frying pan or on the barbecue (see Cook’s Notes). This marinade also goes well with chicken, quails, duck or white fish such as cod, halibut or haddock.
This is a tasty sharing recipe perfect for lazy summers spent on the patio sipping chilled crisp pinot grigio and reading the weekend papers… roll on summer!
Ingredients & Method
For the dukkah spice and nut blend
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- a pinch of ground turmeric
- a pinch of crushed dried chillies
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 30g chopped roasted hazelnuts
- 40g chopped pistachio nuts
- 30g roasted white sesame seeds
For the dukkah-dusted lamb cutlets
- Dukkah Spice and Nut Blend (see above)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon clear honey
- finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 8 lamb cutlets (about 1kg total weight)
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the quinoa and grilled aubergine salad
- 120g white quinoa
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 30g golden sultanas
- 1 tablespoon clear honey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom vinegar (see Cook’s Notes)
- 25ml pomegranate molasses
- 1 aubergine
- 100g (trimmed weight) green beans, trimmed, blanched and sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
- natural yogurt, to serve
First prepare the dukkah spice and nut blend. Using a pestle and mortar, crush the cloves, fennel, coriander and cumin seeds, the paprika, salt, turmeric, dried chillies and black pepper together to form a powder. Add the hazelnuts, pistachios and sesame seeds and mix lightly. The dukkah spice and nut blend is ready to be used, so transfer the mixture to an airtight container until needed (see Cook’s Notes).
Next, prepare the lamb cutlets. In a small mixing bowl, mix the dukkah spice and nut blend with the sesame oil, honey and lemon zest and juice. Season the lamb cutlets with salt and pepper, then dip each cutlet into the dukkah mixture, rubbing the mix in and coating both sides. Place the cutlets in a shallow dish, cover and then leave them to marinate in the fridge for 40 minutes.
While the lamb is marinating, prepare the salad. First cook the quinoa in a medium saucepan. Put the quinoa, turmeric and some salt and pepper in the pan and cover with twice as much cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender to the bite (almost like pasta, al dente and not completely pappy), about 12–15 minutes. Once cooked, drain the quinoa using a sieve (colander holes are too big and it will all wash away), refresh under cold running water and drain again. Meanwhile, soak the sultanas in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until plumped up, then drain and set aside.
In the meantime, make a vinaigrette. Measure the honey, olive oil, both vinegars and the pomegranate molasses into a small bowl and whisk to combine, then season to taste and set aside.
Next, griddle the aubergine. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until hot. While the pan is heating, cut the aubergine into 5mm-thick rounds and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Griddle the aubergine slices (you may need to do this in two batches) on the hot griddle pan (do not add any oil) for about 2 minutes on each side (you want to achieve dark griddle marks on both sides). Transfer the hot aubergine slices to a tray or large shallow dish and pour the vinaigrette over, then leave to soak and absorb the vinaigrette for 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes.
Now finish the quinoa salad. Mix the drained quinoa, green beans, chopped herbs and soaked (drained) sultanas together, season to taste and then drizzle the vinaigrette from the tray/dish of aubergine slices over to bind it all together.
Finally, cook the lamb (see Cook’s Notes for how to barbecue the lamb). Heat a griddle pan or a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat until hot. Add the cutlets to the pan and cook for 3–4 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking. Once cooked, transfer to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve the lamb cutlets with the quinoa salad, layered with the aubergine slices, with some natural yogurt dotted over.
The dukkah spice and nut blend is a great storecupboard ingredient and it adds a lovely touch to Persian or Moroccan styles of cooking. You can purchase ready-made blends and some may not contain nuts. I make my own and keep it in an airtight jar or container (it should keep for up to a month) alongside my other spices. As well as jazzing up plain steamed rice, dukkah spice blend is also delicious sprinkled over chicken, quail or white fish before cooking, vegetables before roasting, or over warm roasted salads or dips such as hummus or baba ganoush just before serving.
To cook the lamb cutlets on the barbecue, preheat the barbecue to medium-hot and marinate the lamb cutlets as above. When you are ready, cook the cutlets directly over the barbecue for 3–5 minutes on each side (depending on their thickness) or until cooked to your liking. Rest as above before serving.
Orange blossom vinegar is available from specialist food suppliers such as The Arabica Food & Spice Company.
With the summer and barbecue season approaching, why not make some super yummy chicken skewers as follows: Cut deboned chicken thigh meat (about 750g–1kg) into large, even-sized pieces (I cut deboned thighs in half, leaving the skin on for extra flavour). Make the marinade as above for the lamb cutlets and combine it with the chicken pieces, then leave them to marinate overnight in the fridge. The following day, I skewer the chicken pieces onto metal skewers (about 4 pieces per skewer) and cook them over a hot barbecue for 10–12 minutes or until cooked through, turning regularly. Remove from the heat, cover with foil and leave them to rest for 5 minutes before serving. They’re delicious served with natural yogurt mixed with seasoning and chopped fresh mint.