spicy lamb cutlets with lentil & rice pilaf

recently i was asked what a pilaf is – “a dish in which a grain, such as rice or cracked wheat, is browned in oil, and then cooked in a seasoned broth” according to wikipedia. i tend to make my pilafs with rice and love having them as an accompaniment to a roast (roasted tomato and fennel pilaf was a recent choice to accompany some slow-roasted lamb) or as a meal in the own right (my mackerel and spinach pilaf is a much loved favourite).

they are incredibly versatile, using up whatever you happen to have in and good served hot or just at room temperature (which makes them an ideal packed lunch option). 

adding protein to the pilaf is something i usually do with fish or meat but in this bill granger recipe he suggests lentils  which works really well. in fact the dish as a whole was great – the lamb cutlets are marinated with a mix of spices and the accompanying tomato sauce is spiked with ginger, chilli and garlic. perfect, with some flat breads, as a cosy supper when you need something comforting but still want to be reminded of summer’s light days and fresh flavours.

i used the leftover pilaf to stuff pitta breads, along with hummus and lamb. another good packed lunch option. 

bill granger’s marinated lamb cutlets (serves 4)

1 teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds*

1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds*

½ a teaspoon of ground cumin*

¼ a teaspoon dried chilli flakes

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

12 french-trimmed lamb cutlets (mine were just regular cutlets with some of the fat trimmed)

place all the ingredients except the lamb cutlets in a bowl and stir until combined. add the lamb to the marinade and toss to combine. cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 2 hours, bringing to room temperature in the last 30 minutes.

while the lamb is marinating, prepare the tomato sauce and pilaf – see below.

when you are ready, heat a frying pan (abby note: i used a griddle pan) over a high heat for 1 minute. add the cutlets and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, turn and cook for another minute for medium rare. serve with the ginger tomato sauce, warm lentil and rice pilaf and lemon wedges.

* i toasted the whole seeds (using whole cumin instead of ground) before roughly crushing them. this boosts their flavour 

bill granger’s ginger tomato sauce

make this simple ginger tomato sauce by frying a little chilli, ginger and garlic in olive oil until fragrant. add 600g chopped tomatoes and cook for 25 minutes.

bill granger’s warm lentil and rice pilaf

185g puy lentils

200g long-grain rice

½ a lemon

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

15g roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the lentils and cook for 10 minutes. add the rice and lemon and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the lentils and rice are tender. drain, discarding the lemon, and place in a serving bowl.

meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat. when hot, add the oil and onion, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onion is a rich golden brown (don't worry if they catch a bit), stirring frequently. remove from the heat (abby note: at this point i added a squeeze of lemon juice, to give the onions a sweet and sour flavour which i really like in this kind of dish).

sprinkle the pilaf with salt, lots of pepper, parsley and half of the cooked onion. stir to combine. top with the remaining onion and serve.