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