We first made these about two years ago, for Sarah’s birthday feast. At that point we lived in a little California bungalow in Fitzroy North that was gorgeous, but we could see the ground between honeyed floorboards, and half the house was sinking, so much so that if we dropped an orange or an onion it would roll to one corner of the kitchen floor. The house was askew but there was a beautiful backyard, fig tree, giant cactus, lawn for our late rabbit Coal to roam free on and a long outside table to eat at on balmy evenings. For Sarah’s birthday we fed a backyard full of people a Middle Eastern feast, on a laden table under the loquat tree. As the balmy night blackened the coloured party lights came on and we played records from the sunroom into the yard. Once it got late enough we got out all the leftover food and nibbled on everything again.
Last night we took these succulent lamb cutlets to a friend’s BBQ. The toasted cumin, ground with salt and garlic is so simple, and it’s so much better than a lamb chop with tomato sauce. Because it’s October in Melbourne and no one can ever be sure when planning an event, whether it’s going to be short shorts weather, or coat and scarf weather (or whether it’s going to switch between the two half way through the day) it was the kind of BBQ where there’s a big drum fire, sticks can be poked into. As the late afternoon orange light faded we ate cumin lamb with the crisp, fresh salad, plates on our laps, around the fire. Gnawing on the bones, until it was just firelight and the smell of wood smoke in cold night air.
Cumin Lamb with Fennel, Mint Salad
The recipe for the lamb comes from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer.
for the lamb
5 tbsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg lamb cutlets or chops
Toast cumin seeds until fragrant in a skillet. Grind cumin seeds, garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle to form a paste, add olive oil. Have a container or plate ready for the lamb, and spoon each cutlet thickly with the spice paste on one side. Place this spiced side to the bottom of the container. Layer the lamb so that all surfaces end up covered with the spice paste. Marinate for an hour or so.
Fry in a hot pan or on the BBQ until the flesh is cooked but still pink.
for the salad
1 bulb fennel, sliced very thinly (sharp knives people!)
a handful of mint, sliced thinly
juice of 1 lemon
a little olive oil
a little salt
Assemble and dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.