Never mind the discovery of pumpkin puree in my hair after I got home from school pick-up. It’s all good. This Moroccan-spiced lamb and pumpkin dish is enchanting enough to leave behind the maddening hustle of your day and transport you to Fez the moment you take a bite.
I used ras-el-hanout (literally, “top of the house,” a Moroccan spice blend that combines the best of a spice merchant’s offerings) as a rub. If you can’t find a ready-mixed blend, you can concoct your own using a mix of turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, anise seeds, clove, allspice, and other spices evoking North African tagines. However, if you are looking to stock your pantry or pick up a great stocking stuffer, I recommend this one (rose petals and lavender flowers and an exotic list of ingredients? yes, please!) — it elevates this dish to dreamy.
Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Loin Over Creamy Smashed Pumpkin
- 3 lamb loin chops
- Ras-el-hanout spice blend, plus salt (I used a pinch of sea salt)
- 4 tsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling pumpkin for roasting
- 1 “Sunny Hokkaido” pumpkin or other small sweet pumpkin
- 1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- ground roasted coriander (may substitute other spice to your liking)
- 3 drops champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar (or light sprinkling of lemon juice)
- salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Roast the pumpkin (chopped into 6-8 segments, with seeds and stringy parts removed, drizzled with olive oil & salt & pepper for seasoning) at 400 F (200 C) on a foil-lined baking sheet for about 1 hour. Check to make sure it doesn’t burn; remove and let cool when it is softened and still golden orange, except for the skin, which might be blackened in places. When cool to the touch, remove the skins and chop coarsely in big chunks; set aside in a big bowl with a towel or foil over it to keep warm. (Keep oven cranked at 400 F/200 C.)
While the pumpkin is roasting, pat the lamb dry with paper towels and season liberally on both sides with ras-el-hanout or homemade spice blend and a small sprinkling of salt and let sit for at least 20 minutes. When ready to cook, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in an oven-safe saute pan over medium-high heat for at least 1 minute. When the oil is hot, place the seasoned lamb loin chops in the pan, spreading them out to avoid crowding. Cook for 5-6 minutes and flip; cook for additional 1-2 minutes, then transfer to the oven to cook for 6-7 minutes, or until cooked at the bone but still pink (bordering on red) inside. Remove the pan and transfer the lamb to a plate or cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, smash the pumpkin with a potato masher and add cream, hot chicken stock, and season to taste (I used coriander to contrast but complement the Moroccan spice blend, but you could use cinnamon/cloves/nutmeg or another spice of choice). Taste and add salt and pepper and mix well.
To plate, spoon out some smashed pumpkin and place a lamb loin over it; top with a teaspoon of good olive oil and just a drop of champagne vinegar/white wine vinegar/lemon juice and a tiny pinch of sea salt. Enjoy your Moroccan escape!