by Peter Coucquyt
on December 2, 2015

Lamb Roulade with lavender – almonds – hazelnuts from the Andalusian Cookbook

This recipe for Lamb Roulade with lavender - almonds - hazelnuts comes to us from the 13th century Andalusian Cookbook. What we find is that the different ingredients in this dish are most commonly linked together by their shared citrus notes. The cinnamon used to season the lamb lends a spicy, vanilla note, while the cloves offer their own fruity note. The almonds and hazelnuts add their own roasted popcorn-like dimension, as do the breadcrumbs, which create an extra link to the saffron.

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Preparation

Lamb

  • lamb
  • water
  • salt
  • kitchen twine (for wrapping later)

In the original recipe from the 13th century Andalusian Cookbook, the lamb belly was not brined. However, brining your lamb before cooking will result in a juicier meat. Place the lamb in a bowl and fill it with water. To prepare the brine, you'll need 33 times the amount of salt as your volume of water. (Example: 1.5 liters of water x 33 = 49 grams of salt.) Brine the lamb in the refrigerator for 12 hours. Then, remove the lamb from the refrigerator, drain the liquid and rinse the lamb. Next, dry the lamb and allow it to cure for another 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Note: You can also replace 30% of the required salt with curing salt (or sodium nitrate), in order for your meat to retain a more reddish hue.

Filling

  • 300 g white breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 110 g olive oil
  • 70 g almonds, chopped
  • 70 g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 10–15 saffron threads
  • 2 whole cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of lavender flowers & leaves
  • generous pinch of cinnamon powder

Pour the breadcrumbs into a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add in the saffron threads and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture over your breadcrumbs and mix together. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix thoroughly until the breadcrumbs are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Assembly

Over a cutting board, gently pound the lamb belly with the flat side of a mallet or heavy skillet until just over 0.5 cm thick. Spread the filling out over the lamb and roll it up into a tight roulade, tucking the filling as you go. Bind the roll with twine in three or four places, making sure it's not too tight. Brush or use your hands to rub olive oil over the lamb roll.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet on medium-high. Add the lamb roulade and turn on all sides until evenly browned. Halfway through this process, add a knob of butter and lavender to the skillet, pouring the hot oil/butter from the bottom of the dish over the top of the roulade. (You can always add some extra butter if it turns dark brown.)

Transfer the skillet to a preheated oven of 150ºC.

Note: If time is not an issue, cook the meat at a lower temperature of 90–100°C. This will allow it to cook before it starts to colour, yielding a more tender result. Alternatively, you can keep the roulade in a hot bath at 65–C for 24 hours so that it can cook. Then colour by baking in butter.

From the Andalusian Cookbook, this 13th century recipe for Lamb Roulade with lavender - almonds - hazelnuts is typical of the medieval Moorish pairings, which often combined meats with heady spices and nuts.

Moorish pairings from the Andalusian cookbook (13th century)

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