Friday, 13 February 2015

Hot dang! Northern China lamb & aubergine skewers with spiced buttermilk dressing

Just because its been snowing outside and your bones are shivering to an ill planned tap dance mess, doesn't mean we should say no to all the things that remind you of summer. There is nothing better than toasting yourself under a giant rug with a tub of ice cream (thank god we're over January and all the promise of healthy eating) when its freezing outside, or, when I'm out in HK, cooling down with a sweet condensed milk hot tea. Barbecues and grilling also works to this rule - it shouldn't just be synonymous with summer BBQ's and rooftop parties (ha, like I actually go to rooftop parties). 

Northern China's cuisine is amazing. Full of flavour and spice, it sometimes borders on the spice palates of middle eastern dishes and aromas. These lamb skewers are perfect for a winter salad or with a shovel sized portion of saucy noodles. For now, I've put this dish with a buttermilk ranch to give it a smack of cooling freshness to the spice of the lamb. I've been trying to cut down on carbs recently (a phase, I'm sure) so actually the skewers were alternated with aubergine to give a bit more variety and so you can actually just eat these as is and without a bowl of rice (a phase, let me repeat). 

The secret to this is in the marinating and the cut of meat you choose. The longer the marinate time, the better. The fattier the meat, the better. In some restaurants, skewers of lamb are alternated with chunks of fat that melt in your mouth. As much as that appeals, it sort of cancels out being any kind of good with the no carbs thing... but if you use lamb shoulder, it's a nice in between. In Hong Kong, lamb is a real treat - it's not used much in cooking as its not readily available, unless you're willing to fork out for some New Zealand expensive exports. So, something a little different out the normal HK diner repertoire for you all.
This week I've been out in Morzine skiing - wonderful snow and my one week of heavenly cheese and big dinners wonderfully cooked by chalet hosts Dot and Chris from Mountain Spaces. Their skill in cooking for 15 idiots a hot breakkie, afternoon cake and then a 4 course meal every day was astounding. I'm still salivating over the thought of the chocolate cake, confit de canard and the mountain of dauphinoise the group inhaled (not to mention unlimited wines). One night there were Asian chicken skewers...and I had to admit, I was a little doubtful I'd put my judgemental Asian food blogger hat on..but it was amazing. And it made me remember I had never written this bad boy recipe up for lamb skewers. It must be done!

400 grams of lamb shoulder
1 large aubergine
3 tablespoons of ground cumin (fresh if you can)
1/2 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons of chilli flakes
3 cloves of garlic
8-10 finely chopped chives
1 tsp maldon sea salt
1 tablespoon of crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 tsp of sesame oil
4 tablespoons of buttermilk
Bamboo skewers
Cut the lamb shoulder into bite sized chunks. With a pestle and mortar, crush the cumin (if you're using fresh, give them a toast on a dry pan for 1 minute first to release the aroma) and Sichuan peppercorns together. Once done, add in the ginger (again, can be fresh if you want) and crush the garlic to get the start of a dry paste. Add in the chilli flakes, chives, sesame oil and salt and slowly add the vegetable oil until you get a thick marinade to cover your lamb with. Leave a few teaspoons of the paste for the buttermilk dressing and pour the rest over the lamb.(Consistency wise, it should be easy to smother over the lamb evenly). Cover the marinated lamb and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Soak some bamboo skewers in water for at least half an hour if you're putting these bad boys on the BBQ. I just put these on the griddle pan, so didn't bother with soaking skewers, but totally up to you.
Cut your aubergine into chunks and add to the marinated lamb. Put 5 or 6 pieces of alternating lamb and aubergine on each skewer and on a hot griddle pan, fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. Rest the lamb for 10 minutes (cover with aluminium foil to keep the heat) and add the leftover marinade paste into the buttermilk (you could use creme fraiche if you want) as a dipping sauce.


  1. Looks delicious! I love lamb and eggplant and you put both of them together and ON A GRILL!?!??!?! OMG!!!