The cooking leading up to Passover celebrations in Michel Thouati’s family took days with different aunts and uncles preparing dishes they were known for. At the Seders in Nice, France, “The table was two or three tables, because there were so many dishes,” says Michel.
The rich and broad recipe repertoire in Michel’s family is unique to a group of Sephardic Jews who have resided in the western Mediterranean for centuries. Among them are this bone-in lamb shoulder seasoned with cumin, thyme, honey, and lemon.
Michel had this dish many times as a child but over the years, it faded from his life. In his early 30s, he tried to reproduce the flavor he remembered, but it wasn’t easy. It took 15 years of experimenting before he matched the taste of the family recipe. Pair it with their bright salad of oranges and salt-cured olives.
Read more about Michel’s family on the Jewish Food Society archive and find more Passover recipes here.
- For the lamb:
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-6 pounds bone in lamb shoulder
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped into a medium dice
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dry thyme leaves
- 48-60 ounces young sweet peas (frozen or canned), defrosted if frozen
- 28 ounces frozen artichoke bottoms, defrosted and cut into quarters crosswise
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- For serving:
- For the spice mix:
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon or regular cinnamon
- For the chopped olives:
- 40 salt cured black olives, pitted, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon dried thyme
- ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon dried rosemary
- For the confit red onions in vinegar:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons light brown/turbinado sugar
- 2 medium red onions, chopped into a medium dice
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 large star anise
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 jar of pomegranate jam
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
- Mix the cumin, 3 teaspoons of salt, and garlic in a small bowl and rub this mixture all over the lamb shoulder.
- Place a 10 quart dutch oven with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the lamb shoulder and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped onions. Saute until the onions are golden brown. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes until softened. Add the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and thyme and stir. Add the lamb back into the pot and add 4 tablespoons of water. Place a lid on the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer. Transfer the pot into the oven and cook for 5 hours.
- Take the pot out of the oven and stir very gently. Add the peas, artichoke bottoms, honey, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix very gently. Cover with the lid and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour until the vegetables are cooked through and the lamb is extremely tender. If there is too much juice/sauce in the pot, transfer the lamb onto a plate. Increase the oven to 450 degrees and broil the juices uncovered for 10 minutes until reduced.
- Make the spice mix: Mix the cumin, garlic powder, salt, lemon zest and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Make the chopped olives: Mix the chopped olives with oil, thyme, oregano and rosemary in a bowl until combined well.
- Make the confit red onion in vinegar: Heat the olive oil in a 12″ frying pan over medium heat. Add the sugar into the oil and stir nonstop for about 7 minutes, until it becomes amber colored. Add the onions in 3 equal batches, mixing after each addition. Add the black pepper and star anise and saute until the onions are golden brown and tender. Add the vinegar and saute for 3 more minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and cook the mixture down until the flavors have nicely mellowed, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the star anise, let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm.
- To serve: plate the vegetables that have been cooking with the lamb on the bottom of a serving platter. Gently place the cooked lamb on top. Pour the cooking juices over the lamb and vegetables. Serve hot. Serve the spice mix, chopped olives, confit red onions and pomegranate jam on the side and add these topping onto each individual portion of the lamb.