The lamb cooks low and slow overnight for about 12 hours, so you can prepare it the night before and enjoy juicy, tender shredded lamb for lunch the next day. Intensely flavoured and refreshing, this salad is ideal for a long midsummer lunch when aubergines are at their best. If you can’t get a local ewe’s cheese, feta is a good alternative.
1 × 2.5kg shoulder of lamb
10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp nigella (black onion) seeds
2 star anise
3 red onions, unpeeled and halved
1 tbsp olive oil
150g pomegranate seeds
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE MARINATED AUBERGINE
4 large aubergines, left whole
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely diced
a bunch of mint, leaves finely shredded
1 heaped tsp fine sea salt
a sprinkle of poppy seeds
FOR THE YOGURT DRESSING
400g natural yogurt
1 cucumber, coarsely grated or finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 handfuls of mint leaves, chopped
FOR THE EWE’S CHEESE SALAD
160g bulgar wheat
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
80g mint leaves, roughly chopped
120g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1.2kg watermelon flesh, chopped into 2.5cm cubes
350g ewe’s cheese or feta sumac, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 110°C (90°C fan oven) gas mark ¼. Place the lamb on a large chopping board. Pierce slits in the lamb with the tip of a sharp knife and insert a garlic clove into each one.
Sprinkle a good amount of salt and pepper over the top. Sprinkle over the cumin, cinnamon and nigella seeds and rub well into the skin.
2. Put the onion halves in a deep roasting tin, along with the star anise and cloves. Carefully lay the lamb on top – this prevents the underneath crisping up too much. Drizzle over the oil. Cover the whole tin tightly with foil and roast in the oven for roughly 12 hours or until meltingly tender. Remove from the oven and set aside, covered in foil.
3. Preheat the oven to 240°C (220°C fan oven) gas mark 9. To make the marinated aubergine, heat a large heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Add the aubergines and cook them, turning occasionally, until softening all over. This gives them their smokey flavour. Transfer them to a baking tray and cook them in the oven for 45 minutes. After 35 minutes of cooking, put the cooked lamb back into the oven with the aubergines, uncovered, to crisp up for the last 10 minutes.
4. In the meantime, make the yogurt dressing. Put the yogurt in a bowl and stir in the cucumber. Add the lemon juice, mint and a pinch of salt and pepper. Tip into a serving bowl and put to one side.
5. To make the ewe’s cheese salad, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry saucepan over a medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking the pan regularly. Put to one side.
6. Place the bulgar wheat in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Put a lid on and cook over a low heat for 8–10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender. Leave to cool completely.
7. Combine the lemon juice and oil in a small bowl and season well with salt and pepper.
8. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mint, parsley, onion and watermelon. Tip in the lemon juice dressing and toss everything to coat. Transfer the salad to a large serving plate. Crumble the ewe’s cheese over the top of the salad, then sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds. Finish with a sprinkle of sumac.
9. Once the aubergines are ready, let them cool for a few minutes, then peel them, keeping them whole and retaining the stalks at the top to hold them together. Lay them out on a serving plate. The flesh will be falling apart, so open them out a little so that they lie flat. Put the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, onion, chillies and mint in a bowl and season with the salt. Spoon this marinade over the split aubergines and sprinkle with the poppy seeds.
10. Remove the lamb from the roasting tin and shred it from the bone onto a serving dish. Put the pomegranate seeds into a small bowl with a spoon for sprinkling over the lamb. Lay all the components out on the table and let people help themselves.
Recipe from The Hidden Hut by Simon Stallard, HarperCollins, £20