Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moroccan Braised Hogget Leg, Sundried Black Genoa Figs, Preserved Lemon served with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts, Flat Leaf Parsley & Mint Couscous

This Sunday I made my first-ever trip up to the Adelaidian suburb of Goodwood to experience the much talked about Waverly Market for myself. I simply hopped on a tram from the city (Corner of King William St and Currie) and within ten minutes I arrived at Goodwood, from which the show grounds are just a 5 minute walk from. The trip is well worth it whether you’re looking to stock your fridge with veggies and meat for the week, to score the perfect Sunday roast, simply enjoy a lazy brekkie – hot coffee and a pastry, catch a live cooking demo or merely while away some time perusing the various interesting gastro-stalls. Waverly truly offers an enjoyable atmosphere and a unique experience for one and all.

The market is a gastronomic delight with fresh local produce representing a fair share of Adelaide’s various bordering settlements with an impressive range of products from artisanal breads made in Willunga to game meats from Hahndorf. With a pitter-patter of rain, gusty gales billowing and nothing but my Moroccan inspired dinner on my mind, I was on a hunt specifically for a pair of beautiful lamb shanks. Although extremely disappointed to learn that my 11 0’clock arrival was in fact too late in comparison to Waverly’s regular market goers that flood the gates at 9 am (although the market only closes at 1 pm, the choicest cakes and cuts of meat sell out quickly), I was pleasantly surprised with an alternative option – a leg of Hogget from North Marola. Technically speaking, hogget is meat from an ovine that is one to two years old, characteristically therefore it has a more intense flavour than lamb with low to medium, internal and external fat. It requires longer cooking time than lamb and thus it makes for the ideal roasting, stewing and braising meat.

A Sweet Reward for making the Sunday Market: Carrot Cake Cupcakes, Cream Cheese Frosting and Walnuts
To compliment my Moroccan Hoggett dish, I was on the lookout for dried mature tasting fruit. Although I was keen on prunes or dates I couldn’t spot any, so instead I was tempted by apricots as well as raisins, but my love for all things figgy got the best of me and so the Black Sundried Genoa Figs won. In the last week of July I preserved a couple of lemons in anticipation and craving of a homemade Moroccan Feast. Almost a month later, the lemons were coated in thick syrupy lemon juice and the skins were soft and pickled – perfect for my braised dish.
Since the hogget has a characteristic mature, meaty flavour and paired with two unique flavour profiles – the figs and the preserved lemon I wanted to serve it with a simple staple that would complement the braise without stealing the show. With this in mind I settled on serving it with a fluffy, steamed couscous with toasted pine nuts, and almonds, chopped flat leaf parsley and mint, finished with a good squeeze of lemon and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and I must say the combination was sheer genius! A memorable meal to say the least…
Ingredients: 6 lamb shanks, trimmed; salt and pepper; ¼ cup olive oil

Whole spice mix: 1 tblsp whole cumin seed; 2 tsp whole fennel seed; 12 whole peppercorns; 6 whole green cardamom pods; 1 3-inch cinnamon stick; 6 whole allspice berries
Ground spices: 2 tsp paprika; 1 tsp cayenne; ¼ tsp mace; ½ tsp grated nutmeg
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves; 1 tsp lavender; 1 tsp ground ginger
Mirepoix: 1 large onion, chopped; 3 carrots, chopped; 3 ribs celery, chopped; large pinch salt; large pinch sugar
Miscellaneous: 2-3 tblsp tomato paste; 6 whole cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled; 150 g Sun Dried Black Genoa Figs; 2 preserved lemon rinds, cleaned, rinsed and chopped; ½ tsp saffron threads, dissolved in ½ cup warm water; 2 cups dry red wine; 1 cup dry white wine; 2 cups meat stock
For couscous: 250g instant couscous; 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped; 1 bunch fresh mint; 75 g toasted pine nuts; 50g toasted almonds flaked; 2-3 tblsp lemon juice; 4-5 Black Genoa Sundried Figs, finely sliced; salt and pepper to taste; extra virgin olive oil to finish
Method: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, set rack to lowest or second-lowest level. Generously season hogget with salt and ground pepper. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven medium heat. Add meat and brown well. Set aside. Spoon out all but 3 tblsp fat from the pot, return to heat. Add whole spices and fry for 2-4 minutes until lightly fragrant. Immediately add mirepoix, salt and sugar and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Sweat vegetables and spices until soft and well-caramelized. Add tomato paste, ground spices and aromatics, stir to combine and cook on medium until tomato paste and spices begin to fry in the oil. Pour in red wine, deglaze and simmer until it is reduced by half. Add white wine, saffron and stock. Return hogget to the pot, add figs, garlic and preserved lemon. Cover tightly, with a cartouche or aluminium foil under the lid, to keep the moisture inside and bake for 2 – 4 hours. Turn meat over to ensure it cooks evenly on all sides.

If cooking for 2 hours or less, for the last 30 minutes, increase the heat to 200 degrees C and bake uncovered so the top surface of the hogget is nicely browned. Meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender at this point. Remove from oven, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.In the meanwhile prepare the couscous. Bring a pot of water to the boil, line a colander with cheesecloth or a dampened light tea-towel filling it with the couscous and allowing it to cook by steaming it for about 10-15 minutes. Check to see the grains have absorbed steam and are plumping up and flick with a spoon to ensure it is fluffy. In a bowl drizzle the couscous with olive oil once cooked, adding the chopped herbs, toasted nuts, sliced figs, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, tossing lightly to maintain its light, fluffy texture.
To serve, spoon the couscous onto the serving plate, slice the hogget in 2 cm thick pieces and arrange on the bed of couscous, with figs, preserved lemon bits and gravy caressing the plate and couscous appropriately. Extra gravy can be served in a sauceboat.

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