Some of the greatest recipes come from lucky mistakes, and this is one of them. In preparation for a dinner party, I had bought all the ingredients to make one of my favorite lamb dishes, pistachio crusted rack of lamb with a golden raisin, pine nut and mint chutney. Thinking that I had golden raisins in the pantry, I skipped buying them. I ALWAYS have golden raisins. But no! I forgot that I had recently tossed them after realizing they had expired… I may have had a glass of wine or two during the pantry cleaning process ;)
It was too late to go to the store and guests were about to arrive. Never one to give up, I went to my dried fruit drawer to see what I had. Cranberries? Not the flavor I was looking for. Apricots? Maybe, but they'll be a bit chewy. Dates! They’re sweet like raisins, and a popular pairing with lamb, especially in Morocco. It was my best option I thought, and threw them in with the mint and toasted pine nuts. Well, they worked! The chutney was a hit and everyone asked me for the recipe. To my surprise, the dates were better than the raisins and they complemented the meaty richness of the lamb so well.
Though the dish was tasty, there was room for improvement. Dates are very sweet, so the chutney was quite sweet. I knew I needed to season the lamb more and give it some spice, which would counteract the sweetness on the taste buds. So, I came up with the idea of a spicy Moroccan seasoned lamb, which I soon made, along with the date chutney. Success! Perfection! This is a GREAT dish.
You can use loin chops like I did here, or regular chops. Don't do a rack, because you won't get enough of the spicy Moroccan seasoning on the meat. The sweet and minty chutney pairs perfectly with the melt in your mouth medium rare lamb chops and the pine nuts add a refreshing crunch. After cooking and tweaking the recipe over the years, I find that it makes a difference to let the lamb marinate in salt, pepper and oil for a few hours in the fridge, rendering more tender meat. Also, I toast whole coriander, cumin and cinnamon before grinding, but you can sub already ground spices for ease. If you want the best flavor though, take the time to toast whole spices and invest in a spice grinder. It makes a HUGE difference in flavor! It's how the pros do it.
I like to serve the lamb and chutney with some whole wheat couscous and a steamed bright green vegetable, like broccoli (as I do here) or green beans or spinach. Any grain side and veggie will do, just keep them simple because the lamb and chutney have lots of flavor.
Enjoy! —Jenya | BlueGalley
For The Lamb Chops:
8 to 12
lamb loin chops (either 2 or 3 per person, depending on size of chops)
whole coriander seeds
whole cumin seeds
ground cayenne pepper
hot pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste (about 1 tsp)
kosher salt to taste (about 1 tbs)
extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons
canola oil for frying (or use olive oil)
A few hours before cooking, season the lamb chops with kosher salt and black pepper. Rub all over with olive oil. Place in fridge and let sit uncovered (this will make the outside crispier when frying) for 2 to 3 hours. Let the lamb come to room temp for 20 min before cooking. If you don't have time to let it marinate, it's ok. Just season with salt, pepper, Moroccan spices and olive oil right before cooking. If pine nuts are not pre-toasted, heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 6 to 8 min. Don't burn! once the pine nut aroma fills your kitchen, they are ready.
Make the chutney: Mix the toasted pine nuts, the chopped dates, minced garlic clove, chopped mint, chopped green onions, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with the salt and pepper. If possible, use a large metal spoon to mix. Mash the chutney with the back of the spoon and use the sharp edge to chop the dates even more. Dates are quite sticky and it will take you a few minutes to mix the chutney to desired consistency. Let stand 15 minutes or cover and place in fridge until ready to use.
Let the lamb sit at room temperature while you make the Moroccan spice blend. Combine all the spices, heat a small skillet over medium low heat and place spices in the skillet. Toast for 3 to 4 minutes, until the spices are very fragrant. Remove from heat immediately, place in a spice grinder and grind or use a mortar and pestle to ground manually. Sprinkle the Moroccan spices over both sides of the lamb chops. Using tongs, flip the lamb a few times and really rub the spices in well, even on edges.
Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat and add 1 tbs canola oil. When oil is slightly smoking, add all the chops. Don't let the chops touch, if they're too crowded, cook them in batches.
Cook the lamb on one side for about 4 minutes, until nicely browned and crispy. Flip and cook another 3 to 4 minutes for medium rare. Or an internal temperature of 145 F. For well done, cook an additional 2 minutes per side.
Remove lamb chops from pan, place on a place and cover. Let them rest for 5 minutes.
Serve with couscous and steamed broccoli, or grain and vegetable of choice. Sprinkle everything with some minced parsley (optional, but recommended)
NOTE: If using already ground spices, you can still toast them to bring out the flavor more, or skip the toasting and just coat the lamb.