What do you make for dinner when snowbound by 2016’s first blizzard? A hearty, satisfying casserole, of course! Casseroles may be intended for sharing, but they are pretty terrific for digging into by yourself on a warm couch while watching the snow too. Since I wasn’t going to be going grocery shopping, I needed to choose something I had all the ingredients for already. Enter two heads of cauliflower, kale, ground lamb, tahini paste, Greek yogurt, eggs, and parsley. I know – that doesn’t sound like any casserole I had heard of before last summer. Before I read Honey & Co.
Lamb siniya was actually the second recipe I made from Honey & Co, and one of the first things I made in my all-grown-up apartment. It was a weird choice, given the summer heat, but I devoured it and have been itching to make it again. So, tonight I did – after making some modifications. Feel free to follow the original recipe, or modify to your heart’s content (see notes). I really enjoyed the original recipe, but I have trouble sticking with cooking something exactly the same way every time (there are only so many things I can eat in one lifetime, I want to try all of the things!). Anyways, this time around, I felt like I was allowed – I had already established that this recipe is amazing, so now I could play. Their original recipe did not call for kale, but I had kale that needed to be used up, plus I wanted some additional vegetables beyond the cauliflower. Perhaps more importantly, if you have looked at the ingredients list and are overwhelmed by the two separate spice mixes called for, this time around I used a gyro meat spice mix and it was also excellent (and way less spicy than my habanero-spiked Baharat spice).
The authors of Honey & Co are former Ottolenghi chefs, and their cookbook has a lot of similarity to Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More – even including the plush cover, which I adore. Their focus is something along the lines of comfort Middle Eastern food, and this recipe for Lamb Siniya is a fabulous showcase for their talent. While I had some complaints when reading through this recipe (and others in their book), the end dish turned out really well. I didn’t find the directions to be perfectly clear, but I muddled my way through without any major trouble. I had a few moments of hesitation, especially over the steamed cauliflower. I was pretty convinced that roasting the cauliflower would be a better choice, but I stuck with the recipe. The final dish does not look pretty, especially if you resort to baking it in a plain old cake pan (like I did the first time). Adding kale and baking it in a scalloped tart pan like I did the second time around definitely ups the attractiveness.
With this lamb siniya, Honey & Co is definitely well on is way to earning a permanent place on my bookshelves.
- 1 dried chili*
- 1 tbsp plus ½ tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp plus 1¾ tsp cumin seeds
- 2½ tsp ground allspice
- 1¼ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2½ tsp sweet spice mix**
- 10 cardamom pods
- 6 cloves
- ½ nutmeg
- 1¼ tsp whole fennel seeds
- 2½ tsp whole mahleb seeds
- 1 tbsp plus ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp plus 1¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cauliflower, small
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 onions, medium
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt, heaped
- 1 pound (500g) lamb, erring on the generous side (>1 pound)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
- 3 tbps baharat spice mix
- 1 heaping tbsp tomato puree
- 1 cup (200g) yogurt, plain***
- ¾ cup (200g) tahini paste****
- 2 eggs, large
- juice of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp salt
- (if needed, 1-2 tbsp water)
- 2 heaping tbsp pine nuts
- 1-2 tbsp parsley, for serving
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Roast cardamom pods, cloves and nutmeg for 5 minutes on a baking tray. Add fennel and mahleb seeds, continue roasting another 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool completely, then grind together with ginger and cinnamon.
- Store in airtight container in cool, dry place up to 6 months.
- Oven should still be at 375 F from preparing the previous spice mix. If not, preheat to 375 F now.
- Crack open chili and shake out seeds (into your garbage).
- Roast deseeded chili together with coriander and cumin seeds on baking tray for 6 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool completely.
- Carefully crumble the roasted chili (and wash your hands well afterwards) into a spice grinder. Add remaining spices to grinder, grind into smooth powder.
- Place in a spice container and store in a dark place for up to six months.
- Chop cauliflower into florets.
- Place in a saucepan together with the 4 cups of water and 1 tsp salt.
- Bring to boil, continue cooking another 5 minutes until cauliflower is soft.
- Drain and place in 8½ inch casserole dish (or cake pan).
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Peel and finely chop the onions.
- Cook onions over medium heat with the vegetable oil and half the salt until onions take on a golden hue.
- Add ground lamb and remaining salt, increase heat to medium high, and continue cooking. Use a wooden spoon to break the lamb into little pieces.
- Once the lamb begins to brown, add the ground fennel and baharat, then cook another 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato puree, continue stirring another 3 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat, then spread the lamb-onion mixture over the cauliflower in the casserole dish.
- Mix the topping ingredients together, except the water and pine nuts. The consistency should be that of thick yogurt, so add the optional water if necessary). Spread over the lamb, then sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until tahini-yogurt looks set and golden.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
**Be very cognizant of the heat level of the dried chili you choose to add. I used ½ a dried habanero, and my spice mix was incredibly hot.
***I used Greek yogurt and my topping was quite thick. If you prefer, regular yogurt would be fine.
****It is worth it to use the best tahini you can buy (or make your own). The tahini taste does come through, and not all brands make a good tahini.