Moroccan cassoulet with harissa breadcrumbs

By Georgia

We call this a cassoulet for ease, but really it’s just an assembly of delicious lamb bits with chickpeas and loads of Moroccan flavours. It has a few different stages, but don't worry, you can make this in advance and finish it off in the oven when you’re ready to eat. This would be a great way of using up any leftover roast lamb.

Moroccan cassoulet

Moroccan cassoulet

Serves 6-8

1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp turmeric
2 lamb neck fillets (approx. 650g), cut into 2cm-wide pieces
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated, both finely chopped
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed under water
1 cinnamon stick
3 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the meatballs
1 garlic clove
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
500g high-quality lamb mince

For the harissa breadcrumbs
175g fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp harissa
1 tbsp olive oil

To finish
2 tbsp olive oil
6-8 merguez or other lamb sausages
A squeeze of lemon, to taste
Harissa, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. In a pestle and mortar or spice grinder, grind the cumin, coriander and peppercorns then add to a mixing bowl along with the ginger, turmeric and a few generous pinches of salt. Add the lamb neck and rub the spices in well. Put to one side for a moment.

In a large, wide casserole pan, warm up the oil over a medium-low heat and add the onions, garlic, chopped coriander stalks and pinch of salt. Leave to soften, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir in the lamb neck and all the spices. Tear in the tomatoes, add the cinnamon stick and pour in enough water to not quite cover the meat. Place a lid on top, then place in the oven for 60 minutes, stirring in the chickpeas after 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs. In a pestle and mortar, bash the garlic clove with a generous pinch of salt into a paste. Add the cumin and fennel seeds and crush them lightly. Scoop into a bowl and add the paprika, lamb mince and the chopped coriander leaves. Season generously, mix well with your hands, then shape into balls the size of golf balls – you want to make about 16. Place in the fridge to firm up.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the harissa and oil and put to one side.

Place a frying pan over a high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Brown the meatballs briefly, just to get a bit of colour on the outside, then do the same for the sausages.

Remove the pan from the oven and check that the lamb neck is soft (return to the oven if not). Taste the chickpeas and adjust the seasoning if necessary. At this stage, you can skim away a little lamb fat if you want. Squeeze in a little lemon so it tastes nice and perky. Push the meatballs and the sausages (you may have to cut them in half) into the liquid, adding a little more water if it looks a little dry. Sprinkle over a thick layer of breadcrumbs, then drizzle over the final tablespoon of oil before placing in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes so that all the juices can be soaked up by the chickpeas. Serve with a green salad and a little extra harissa if you want.