Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Loin of Roscommon Lamb with Minty Couscous, Griddled Courgettes & Harissa Dressing

The Roscommon Lamb Festival 2015 is taking place over the next few days (29th April – 4th May) with a number of events scheduled in the town itself but also around the county. The Festival, which is now in its eighth year, focuses on locally produced food and in particular, all things to do with lamb! However, this is not all that will be happening over the next few days, as there are many events scheduled to take place including music performances, heritage tours and other fun activities for all the family.

Of particular note during this year’s Festival, is a Fundraising Supper which is being held on the Friday evening – 1st May, to raise monies for the local Join our Boys Trust. The trust was set up by Paula and Padraic Naughton, who live in Roscommon Town for their three sons Archie (10) and twins George and Isaac (5) who have all been diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). I hope to make it along on the evening to sample the intriguing sounding menu from Maltese chef Can Kurtcu of restaurant Diar-il-Bniet in Dingli on the island of Malta. Further information about this Supper and the other Festival events can be accessed here.
Roscommon has the highest lamb output per acre in Ireland, so it is appropriate that the Festival should take place in the county. I love the sweet taste of new season lamb and often cook with it but note that, to date, I have not included any recipes using it on this blog. This is even more embarrassing to admit as my husband has a sheep farm! In an effort to remedy this shameful omission, I am posting this recipe which is incredibly simple to make and tastes absolutely delicious. Loin of lamb like all choice-cuts can be expensive to buy but, if you prefer, you can easily substitute lamb chops.
Although some people like their meat cooked to the ‘well-done’ stage, I urge you cook the lamb to no more than ‘medium’ especially if you are using loin. Of critical importance is to allow the meat to rest in a warm place for at least 5 minutes before attempting to slice it. This way you will not be left with a puddle of juices on the plate and the lamb will be beautifully succulent.


Harissa Dressing:
100g natural Greek yoghurt
1tblsp harissa paste
A few drops of lemon juice
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Minty couscous:
100g couscous
150ml vegetable/light chicken stock
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
2tblsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 x 250g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 large bunch of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
To finish:
A little olive oil
1 large courgette, sliced thinly along the length of the courgette
4 x 125g lamb loins, trimmed of all fat and sinew
1 pomegranate, seeds only
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper


Harissa dressing:
1. Mix the yoghurt and harissa paste together and add a few drops of lemon juice. Taste and adjust season as necessary. Place into a little bowl, cover and refrigerate until required.
Minty couscous:
2. Place the dry couscous into a medium sized bowl and add a generous pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Separately heat up the stock in a small saucepan until it starts to simmer. Pour the stock on top of the couscous, add the olive oil, lemon zest and juice and give everything a mix with a fork. Cover the bowl with some cling film and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. After 10 minutes, remove the cling film, by which time all the liquid should have been absorbed. Fluff the couscous up with a fork and add the onions, chickpeas and freshly chopped mint. Give everything a good toss with the fork, taste and adjust seasoning as required. Set aside until ready to serve.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Separately place a griddle pan on the hob over a high temperature and allow it to get really hot.
5. Lightly oil the slices of courgette with olive oil on both sides and place into the pan. Allow to cook for 1 minute before turning and cooking for a further minute. Remove from the pan season gently and set aside.
6. Let the frying pan become really hot again and once it is add a small splash of olive oil. Sear each of the lamb loins for 1 minute on each side, removing them to an oven proof dish once they are deep golden brown. Place in the preheated oven and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the meat to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.
To serve:
7. Slice each loin into 4 or 5 slices and place on top of some of the couscous on each plate. Add a few griddled courgettes to each and scatter over some pomegranate seeds. Serve with the harissa dressing on the side.

Serves 4.