Why is it that you can look forward to a visit from someone special; wait and anticipate for 3 months and then bam, they come and they’re gone, just like that. Where does the time go? How does it fly by so quickly?
Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting my darling nephew and his new family visiting from Toronto. It was the first time meeting his beautiful wife and the their adorable little 5 month old. We had such a fun time that one week just flew by and before I knew it, I was dropping them off at the airport. It was so hard to say goodbye and I didn’t want to let go of the baby. My children, my husband and I got completely attached to the little guy because he was such a cuddly bug and so friendly. I know when I see him again, he won’t be this little and he’ll be a little toddler real soon. He smiled the entire week for us and cried only when he was tired or hungry. I miss him terribly.
I am very close to my nephews who were born when I was just 13 years old. They spent many months at a time in London with me and I’ve seen both the boys grow up to be amazing men and now with their own little families, amazing husbands and dads. I am so proud of them. They live too far away and I don’t get to see them enough, but I enjoy every second when I do.
This week starts the Islamic month of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Come Saturday, around 2 million Muslims will gather in Mecca to start the pilgrimage which includes travelling to Madina (where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)is buried), Mina where they stay in tents and at Mount Arafat where they experience the Day of Judgement, of sorts and where their worship and pilgrimage is accepted. Part of the pilgrimage is the sacrifice of a lamb, goat or cow to commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Abraham of his son. This is our 2nd important holiday, Eid al Adha. It’s pretty much a meat holiday, at least that’s what I remember from my childhood.
Eid al Adha in London was quite uneventful. We would go to prayer at the London Central Mosque that was just down the road from the house and then return home and stand at the window looking at the other worshippers walking to the tube station and bus station. My sister and I watched for the “Eid fashion” that year. My mother would make breakfast and we’d eat. It was just another day for us back then. My parents would pay for the sacrifice in India and my grandparents would take care of it and distribute the meat to the needy. It never really felt like a holiday in London. We’d have people over for dinner or go out but it never had that holiday vibe.
If we happened to be visiting my grandparents in India that year, the holiday was totally different. If my uncles and aunts were also visiting that year, it was a real holiday feeling, with a whole lot of meat and a lot of dinners with meat. Even though 2/3 of the sacrificial meat is given to the poor and needy, we still have a lot left over.
The goats and lamb were sacrificed in my grand parents huge back yard. They hired butchers to come and slaughter, clean and chop up all the meat to distribute. They started early, right after everyone returned from prayer.
As a child, I slept in but knew what would be happening that morning. I’d avoid looking out the windows for the fear that I’d see the sea of red and skinned animals hanging from trees to get cleaned.
Since every uncle and aunt had at least a couple of goats each, this meant that the butchering process took a few hours. I didn’t find the whole process traumatic or anything, I knew why it was done and the reason behind it, but I just didn’t like to see it.
Breakfast time is where it got interesting. As the butchers started on the meat, the first bits to come in to the kitchen were the organ meats and brains. Yep, my uncles and grandfather ate everything.
The brains, liver and kidneys would get the spicy masala treatment. Heart and testicles weren’t spared either…or the eyes. More traumatic than the actual slaughter was seeing my uncle pick out the goat’s eyes and pop them in his mouth, bursting them in between his teeth like it was a juicy grape or a cherry.
There was no escaping the plethora of organ meats on the table that holiday morning. I hated breakfast that day. I would just eat a naan, usually with a look of disgust and disdain and get away from the table as soon as I could. Even now, I haven’t developed much of a taste for organ meat. I’m not a fan of kidneys, liver, heart or brains.
The torture didn’t really end at breakfast. Dinner was also a meat heavy event. Biryani, korma, nehari and let’s not forget the stomach. I pretty much starved that day.
Eid al Adha has always been a meat heavy holiday and so today’s post offers some ideas for all that meat that will happen on your doorstep in a week’s time.
If possible, try and make this a day ahead of serving to allow for the lamb to sit in its broth overnight and also so you can remove the fat from the top.
I’m not a lamb eater as you know but my family is. I still make it for them and nibble to make sure it’s good. I mostly go by their testimonials that it’s delicious…or not.
So, when this was roasting, it smelled wonderful! And I usually don’t even like lamb cooking smell. The spices really did their job permeating and flavouring the lamb and the broth. After the 3 hour cooking time, the lamb is tender and shreds beautifully. Enjoy the lamb and the broth with some couscous or for a different twist, use as a filling for tacos, quesadillas or pastry. We ate it alongside some steaming couscous and a vegetable chicken tagine, or you can try this baked chicken tagine here. I didn’t add olives to this lamb because I had olives in my chicken tagine, but you can most definitely add some lovely, green Castelveranos to this dish.
Serves: 8-10 servings
- 3 pounds/1.5kg boneless leg of lamb
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 2 tablespoon Ras el Hanout spice
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
- ½ cup/120ml Harissa paste
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 celery stalks, halved
- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 large preserved lemon, cut in half
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- ¼ cup mint, chiffonade
- Make this a day ahead of serving to remove the fat from the dish.
- Preheat the oven to 450F/220C.
- Remove the netting on the lamb if it has one and unroll the roast.
- Make slits in various spots in the meat and slip in some garlic slices.
- Sprinkle half the Ras El Hanout all over and massage in.
- Do the same with half the the paprika, Aleppo pepper and the harissa paste.
- NOTE: harissa paste I used is a mild, sweet pepper harissa.
- If you are using a hot harissa paste (and my recipe on the website is for a hot one), cut back the harissa to 2 tablespoons or to taste.
- Rub the lamb with the remaining spices on the other side.
- Roll the lamb back up.
- Season with a sprinkling of salt all over.
- In a large heavy Dutch oven, place the lamb roll and surround with the onions, celery stalks, preserved lemon and the carrots.
- Place in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes at 450F.
- The lamb will gain some colour at this point.
- Carefully turn the lamb around at 20 minutes and roast for another 20 minutes on the other side.
- Remove the pot from the oven and add the 2 cups of water, place the lid on the pot.
- Reduce the heat to 250F and place in the oven.
- Braise the lamb for 2 hours.
- After an hour check the meat and turn over the roast.
- After 2 hours, the meat should be very tender and falling apart.
- If your leg of lamb is bone in, you may need another 30 minutes or so.
- Cool the lamb down and remove from the pot onto a plate.
- Strain the broth back into the pot removing the vegetables.
- Discard the onions and celery, but keep the carrots and the preserved lemon.
- Cut the preserved lemon into small pieces.
- Place the lamb, preserved lemon pieces and carrots back into the broth and refrigerate over night.
- The next day, skim off the fat that has solidified on the top.
- Heat the meat and broth up on low on the stove top or back in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot.
- Check for salt in the broth.
- If desired, add a teaspoon of harissa or more spices to amp up the flavour of the broth.
- Season to taste.
- Garnish with cilantro and mint before serving.
I also have my recipe for homemade harissa paste. Summer’s chile bounty makes it the perfect time to try making your own harissa. It’s really quite easy and amazing on everything, from eggs to sophisticated tagines.
In the spirit of Eid al Adha and the holy month of Dhul Hajj, I’d like to wish you all peace, prosperity and best wishes from my family to yours.