While buying lamb just before Christmas Eve at Farah Foods (one of Prague’s Middle Eastern shops), I got to chatting with the Moroccan woman at the till. I wanted to know what she was going to cook, convinced that it was going to be some festive Moroccan specialty. Imagine my surprise, then, when she smiled at me and said: “Why, carp and potato salad, of course! We’re in the Czech Republic, after all.” I smiled back and mused at the irony of life. Here was a Moroccan woman who was going to make carp and potato salad, while I was preparing for a culinary journey to the Middle East.

Yotam Ottolenghi, the founder of the Ottolenghi restaurants and delis in London, has an intriguing professional history and even more intriguing recipes. Born in Israel, he studied journalism until he discovered that food was his calling. His delis in London completely blew me away – with their menus as well as with their interior design. I once stumbled upon an article where he claimed that real hummus shouldn’t contain Greek yoghurt (which I used to add) and that it should be whisked with icy cold water. His cookbook, Jerusalem, features a lamb recipe with hummus and lemon sauce. Now that we have the inspiration, let’s start cooking!

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Cinnamon Lamb with Hummus and Lemon-Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

Serves 2
Preparation 1 hod. + marinating

400g leg of lamb (although Ottolenghi recommends neck fillet)
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmag
1 tsp dried oregano
1,5 tsp salt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp clarified butter
For the sauce:
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp ground chilli
2 tbsp olive oil
For the hummus:
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
750ml water
125g dried chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
100ml icy water
salt

Method

Cover the chickpeas with plenty of water, and let soak overnight.

Drain the chickpeas and place it in a heated pan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and toast 2-3 minutes on high heat. Pour over 750ml water and bring to boil. Skim the foam and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. The chickpeas should be soft enough to be crushed between two fingers, but not mushy.

Cut the meat into small pieces and combine with all the spices. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Drain and blend the hot chickpeas into a puree. A blender is best for this, as your hummus will be lighter and airier, but a stick mixer works fine, as well.

Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and blend some more. Towards the end, add the icy water in a slow stream while blending, and finally the salt. Blend for a further 5 minutes.

Ottolenghi advises to let the hummus rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Cut open a pomegranate and scoop out 4 tbsp worth of seeds. Make sure there’s none of the bitter white pith.

Fry the meat in butter, only a few minutes.

Combine the chopped garlic and chilli with the lemon juice.

Divide the hummus into plates or bowls, add the meat, sprinkle with garlic-lemon sauce, and garnish with chopped herbs. Decorate with pomegranate seeds for a final touch of colour.

I think this dish will satisfy even the most demanding guests.

Inspiration: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe