Easter Lamb with a kefir and herb marinade, crunchy salad and saffron pilau

Herby with a kick of preserved lemons nestled underneath it, this is the perfect lamb for Easter lunch

Joe Woodhouse
Joe Woodhouse

Festive lamb in a kefir and herb marinade

 Serves 6

I love using kefir in meat marinades, it works well with chicken and lamb especially. If you don’t have access to it, simply dilute yogurt with a spoonful of yogurt.You really can use any soft herbs here, but tarragon, mint and dill do have a special affinity with lamb, so if you can find them use them. And don’t forget that with softer soft herbs. Like dill, coriander, basil – you can also use the stalk, they are soft enough and hold so much flavour.


1 shoulder of lamb (1kg)

150ml kefir or yogurt

100g soft herbs (I used tarragon, coriander, chives, mint, dill)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

Sea salt

2 tbsp sunflower oil

4 preserved lemons, sliced

Take a baking tray that will fit your lamb in snuggly and oil it lightly or cover with foil and oil it if you want washing up to be a little easier later. Put the slices of lemon on the bottom.

Roughly chop the herbs and reserve a handful of the herbs. Now roughly chop the garlic. Blitz the kefir or yogurt with the herbs, garlic, a generous pinch of sea salt and a tiny splash of oil. You can, if you like, also add spices here – cumin and coriander seeds work well, but more often than not I let the fresh herb flavours do their thing.

I put the lamb into the prepped baking tray, on top of the lemons, and make some slashes all over it with a small knife. Then rub it with the marinade all over. And if you can leave to marinade for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge. If you do leave it to marinade, cover it tightly with foil so it’s ready to go in the oven.


Make sure that you take the lamb out of the fridge a couple of hours before you stick it in the oven, so it come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Put the lamb in and depending on the size of your lamb it can take anything from 2 to 4 hours. Mine was actually quite small, only 1kg, but it took 3 hours to cook to medium (how I like it). If you would like more of a pulled lamb situation – leave it in for much longer, just check on it from time to time. If you do check on it, make sure to cover it again properly, because the marinade has the propensity to burn easily if exposed.

When the lamb is done to your liking, take the reserved herbs and chop through them so they are finely chopped. Stick the herbs all over the warm lamb. These fresh herb flavours will re-enforce the flavours in the marinade and it will all taste and look really wonderful.

Any leftover lamb can be thinly sliced. I then heat a tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the lamb until crispy. I serve it in a pitta bread with some of our leftover crunchy salad, the preserved lemons and a little bit of garlic yogurt and chilli sauce. It’s almost worth making this whole feast for the leftovers.

The crunchy spiced salad

This is inspired by the Korean salads of my childhood. In Ukraine and other ex-USSR countries there are large Korean communities and they very often sell mountains of piled carrot pickle – spicy with some chilli, aromatic with coriander and caraway seed and sharp from vinegar. You can just use carrots of course, but I find other crunchy vegetables work really well too. And of course you can add a little sweetness with apples if you like.

at the markets.
1/2 celeriac
3 carrots
1 kohlrabi
100ml sherry vinegar
2 tbsp honey
A generous pinch of salt
1.5tbsp fennel seeds
1.5tbsp coriander seeds
1 garlic, peeled
Soft herbs (I used dill, mint and coriander)

Peel the celeriac, making sure to cut off all the soily bits. I find using a knife is the easiest way to do this. Cut the gnarly bit of the celeriac first and place it cut side down (so it’s stable) onto your chopping board. Then slice as thinly as you can. Then working with two slices, one on top of the other, slice across into long matchsticks.

With the carrot, if my carrots are organic, I don’t bother peeling them, I just wash and scrub them well. Cut a slic off to make the carrot stable and cut into matchsticks

Cut the leaves off the kohlrabi – but don’t chuck those away. You can use them in another dish – sauteed in some butter and garlic or slices and cooked in a vegetable broth. Peel the kohlrabi with a vegetable peeler and slice into matchsticks.

For the dressing, mix the vinegar with the salt and honey. Then toast the spices in a small frying pan, shaking it from time to time, until they smell aromatic.

Roughly chop the garlic and bash together using a pestle and mortar with a generous pinch of sea salt. Add the spices and grind some more until the spices are pulverised, Add this to the vinegar mixture. Add a little more vinegar if the mix is too dry. You want it a sludgy kind of consistency. Stir the spice dressing through your julienned vegetables. Taste the salad and add some more salt or vinegar if you think it needs it. It should really pack a punch in the flavour department. Sprinkle over some herbs – any soft herb works well (i.e. chives, basil, tarragon, parsley) and serve with the lamb and the pilau.

This salad can also become a very good pickle. Just pack it tightly into a jar and keep in the fridge for up to a month. You can also add a pinch of chilli flakes or a little bit of cayenne to the pickle if you like your pickles spicy. Serve it with anything – it is very good in a pita bread with some grilled chicken or roasted caulifower.

Brown rice saffron pilau

I really love brown rice. It is nutritious and tasty and if you soak it (anything from 2 and up to 8 hours) it will cook faster! If you don’t have saffron – you can add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder to add the beautiful yellow colour.

20g butter
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
A pinch of saffron
1 lemon, zest only
300g brown rice
700ml water

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and the chopped onion. Cook it over a medium heat, stirring often until it becomes soft and golden brown – it depends on how finely you chopped your onion, but it shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.

If you pre-soaked your rice, drain it well.

Now add the rice to the butter and onion and stir to coat. Add the saffron, lemon zest, a very generous pinch of sea salt and cover with water. Cover the pan with a lid and bring to a simmer. Then lower the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes, with a lid covering the pan but letting a little steam to escape. It should be done when the water has evaporated/absorbed and the rice is soft. If at any point you feel like the pan is looking dry but the rice isn’t cooked just add a little bit of hot water.

Serve with the lamb and the crunchy salad and some watercress or other leaves on the side.