Spice up your pantry – spiced lamb loins with chickpea stew and halloumi

This is not my first recipe using the marvellous lamb loin. I’m on a mission to show how versatile they are. They can take on so many different flavours and create any number of delicious meals.

It’s no secret how much I love a spice rub and the lamb loins lend themselves beautifully to these exotic flavours. With each recipe I like to tweak the spice blend and try new combinations that will work with whatever is accompanying the lamb. But you’ll see that the same spices show up time and again.

It seemed therefore a good opportunity to address the value of having a spice collection in your pantry. They can transform your food and make cooking adventurous and exciting.

Here is a list of the spices I always keep in my pantry:

Cumin – I don’t know how I’d cook without this incredible spice. It adds instant warmth to any dish with its earthy flavour.

Coriander – Also earthy and spicy but milder with a nutty flavour.

Turmeric – Aromatic and turns everything a gorgeous colour.

Garam Masala – What a combination of spices!

Allspice – Not a blend of spices but the unripened dried berry of a tropical evergreen tree. Incredibly aromatic. One whiff and you’ll be hooked.

Cinnamon – perhaps my favourite smell in the world. I use it just as much in savoury dishes as sweet.

Paprika – Made from dried peppers (capsicums) that are then ground into a fine spice. I adore peppers, which is why I’m so fond of paprika. Great colour, great flavour.

Cayenne Pepper – Gives anything an instant hit of heat.

Sumac – Has the best colour of all the spices and is fabulously sour.

Cloves – Once again, beautifully aromatic. Try to keep whole cloves and ground.

Nutmeg – I’d never make a béchamel sauce without it. Try to only ever use freshly grated nutmeg.

Chilli flakes – I may have listed these last but I probably use them the most – warm and fiery!

I’m not one for dried herbs but I think dried oregano is a must for your pantry.

Just seeing those spices listed makes me excited as I think about the possibilities, one of which I cooked the other night. My friend Clare has been waiting for this recipe and has had a tin of chickpeas in her pantry for weeks so time to share.

Incidentally, my husband devoured every morsel and thought it was a roaring success.

The spice rub is used for both the lamb and the chickpea stew, which makes it an easy meal to put together. I’ll confess that there wasn’t much of the chickpea stew left by the time my husband had indulged in seconds so I’m going to say it serves 2-3. But it would be a cinch to double it and feed more people. You could keep it in the fridge for a couple of days and serve it with chicken, steak, crusty bread, halloumi – anything really. Or pop it in the freezer.

 

Spiced lamb loins with chickpea stew and halloumi

Serves 2-3

 

For the spice rub: 

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons coriander

1 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ teaspoon salt

 

For the chickpea stew:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 teaspoons spice rub

1 400g tin chickpeas

1 400g tin cherry tomatoes

80g baby spinach leaves

 

150g halloumi

2-3 lamb loins

(If they’re quite large you may only need two between three people. If small, go for one per person)

 

Place a pan on the hob and get it nice and hot for the lamb.

Firstly make the spice rub. Simply combine all the spices in a small bowl and give them a good mix.

Heat the oil in a separate pan and add the onion. Sauté until soft and translucent and then add the garlic. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Now add 3 teaspoons of the spice rub and stir it through the onion and garlic. Let it fry for a minute or so to bring out their smell and flavour.

Add the chickpeas and stir through, making sure they are all coated in the onion and spice mixture. Next add the tin of cherry tomatoes and stir through well. Lower the heat and keep the stew at a steady simmer for 20-30 minutes. The tomato juices will reduce and the stew will thicken.

While the stew is simmering you can get on with the lamb. Use the remainder of the spice rub to coat the loins. Drizzle olive oil over each loin and rub into the spices. Place the loins in the heated pan.

I find four minutes per side reliably gives me a lovely medium pink finish. If the loins are quite small/thin you could reduce to three minutes per side.

As soon as they are done to your liking transfer to a plate, cover with tin foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

For the halloumi you can either wash up the pan you’ve just used for the lamb or use a separate pan. Bring it to a medium heat. Slice the halloumi into 1cm slices and place into the dry pan. Cook on each side until golden.

Once the stew has cooked down to a good consistency, check the seasoning again because it may need a touch more salt. Now add the baby spinach leaves and stir through until just wilted.

Slice the rested lamb and serve with ladefuls of stew and a couple of slices of halloumi.

Not only does this dish taste incredible, it’s beautiful to look at – the red of the tomatoes, the splashes of green from the spinach, the golden halloumi and the seared pink lamb.

Every mouthful is a privilege.

Enjoy!

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