Spiced lamb is the perfect match with smooth hummus. A scattering of pomegranate and fresh herbs on top, and I’m in heaven.
This recipe was first published in my newsletter Meze.
A restaurant that changed how I eat
I didn’t know it then, but moving to London’s Clerkenwell area in 2006 would completely reshape what I eat. Long before I heard of Ottolenghi, a restaurant in my new neighbourhood would open my eyes to a new world of flavours.
Moro opened its doors in 1997. After working at the legendary River Café, the newly married couple Sam & Sam Clark bought a camper van and journeyed through Spain, Morocco and the Sahara in search of inspiration for a new restaurant venture.
Today that might sound like many other restaurant openings, but in the 1990s, this was groundbreaking. Anything other than Italian, French or some other classic fare was considered risky – reckless, even.
This wasn’t a restaurant that was to rely on high footfall. They’d need to make their own name.
And make their own name they did. Before long, regulars included Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and just about anyone who was something in London’s food scene.
They won awards, the restaurant was buzzing and they set the stage for a complete re-imagination of Exmouth Market. Today, it’s a hip pedestrianised street with lots of restaurants, bars and cafes.
All of this I learned later, after being blown away by the flavour combinations at my first visit to Moro, a place I had previously only walked past.
Here, the ingredients were allowed to shine, like in Italian cooking, but with flavour combinations unlike any I’d experienced before.
After the visit, it was only a matter of days before I got my hands on the Moro Cookbook, which is still in print more than 20 years after it was first published.
Hummus with spiced lamb inspired by Moro and Morito
The dish I want to introduce to you today, came out of the many visits to Moro and Morito, the smaller next-door tapas bar that opened in 2010.
After moving to Istanbul, I spent a lot of time recreating the dishes and flavours of my favourite London restaurants.
One of the dishes I couldn’t get out of my head was a small plate of smoked aubergine with spiced lamb, pomegranate and mint I’d had several times at Morito. With leftover hummus from a party the day before, I thought that might also be an excellent vehicle for the spiced lamb.
Upon consulting the Moro and Morito cookbooks for a recipe for the spiced lamb, it turned out the Clarks had had the same thought long before me. Or perhaps I’d subconsciously saved the idea, because while the aubergine version was indeed in the Morito book, the Moro one contained a recipe for hummus with spiced lamb.
This dish is more similar to the latter, but the flavour still takes me back to the days of endless small plates and red wine in tapas glasses on uncomfortable stools at an overcrowded Morito.
While the aubergine original is made with spiced lamb shank which is later refried with more spices, I’m opting for an easier version with lamb mince. As easy and even more delicious than baharat spiced hummus!
And I love the flavour of the spiced lamb so much, I’ve upped the ratio of lamb to hummus rather a lot, making it more of a meal than a meze dish.
Ever since I first published the recipe on my Norwegian blog, and later in my first cookbook, it’s been one of the most popular recipes among my Norwegian readers. It also featured in my very first media appearance, in an Andreas Viestad column back in 2018. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
- 3 Tbsp ghee or butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 400 g lamb mince
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 25 g pine nuts (2 Tbsp)
- 1 portion hummus (c. 400 g / 2 cups)
- seeds of ½ pomegranate
- 3–4 Tbsp finely chopped mint
- salt and pepper
- Heat a thick bottomed pot or large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the onion in the butter until soft, but not yet golden, stirring regularly, 8-10 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to high, stirring constantly to avoid the onions burning. After a couple of minutes, once the pan is very hot, add the meat, cumin and cinnamon as well as salt and pepper. Break up the meat and keep frying, stirring regularly, until the meat is nicely browned and cooked through.
- Add the pine nuts. Continue frying until the pine nuts are golden and some of the meat just about starts crisping up in places – but not so long that anything gets burned. Season to taste with salt and pepper and take off the heat.
- If your hummus isn't freshly made, heat it gently until it’s slightly warmer than lukewarm.
- Serve the hummus immediately topped with the meat mixture, pomegranate seeds and herbs.