Lamb marinated in yoghurt and cardamom

In season: J F M A M J J A S O N D

Serves 3-4

20 minutes prep and 45 minutes cooking time
This is inspired by a Cypriot favourite of mine, afelia, which uses pork shoulder marinated in red wine and tonnes of coriander. The yoghurt makes the lamb impossibly tender, but I feel it’s still important to use the less lean cuts in this recipe.
500g diced lamb shoulder or leg
160ml plain natural yoghurt
1/8 tsp whole fennel seeds
1 inch of cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, just seeds, skins discarded
1 tsp coriander seeds
4 garlic cloves, un-peeled
1 tbsp mild olive oil or rapeseed oil
500ml water, more as necessary
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper-to taste

1/. Pour the yoghurt into a plastic tub or bowl.

2/. In a dry frying pan, or heavy bottomed saucepan, toast the coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and fennel seeds until they start to smell fragrant. Tip them straight into a pestle and mortar, before they have a chance to burn. If you suspect they are burnt, start again with fresh spices, as burnt spices can be very bitter.

3/. Whilst the pan is still hot, toast the garlic in the same way, still in its skin, until it feels softer and the skin comes off easily. Pop the peeled cloves into the pestle and mortar with the spices and olive oil. pound until you have a smooth-ish paste.

4/. Pour the mixture from the pestle and mortar into the tub with the yoghurt and stir until mixed. Add the lamb pieces and work the yoghurt into the lamb until it is well covered. Cover the container and leave to marinate preferably overnight, but at least for a couple of hours.

5/. Heat a heavy bottomed casserole dish on the hob and brown the meat in small batches. There is no need to add any oil, as the marinade has some in it already. Don’t worry if you start to get caramelised bits around the edge of the pan.

6/. When all the meat is browned, add in the water, stir to dissolve the marmite-y bits stuck on the bottom and sides of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring gently to the boil for 3 minutes then turn down the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and gently simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lamb is perfectly tender. Periodically, the lamb may need more water if it is sticking, although it should be quite dry and sticky when it is cooked.

If WHEN the weather perks up a bit, why not get your butcher to bone and butterfly a leg or shoulder of lamb, marinate in the same way and barbecue the way you like it.