Jamie describes this dish as 'a bit of a palaver' - but worth it. I didn't find it that much of a palaver, because it was easy.
First, I scored the shoulder of lamb in criss-crosses, then ground up cumin, fennel and coriander seeds with black peppercorns, dried chillies and salt, and rubbed the mix into the lamb, before pushing rosemary leaves into the slits and roasting in a conventional roasting tray for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, I fried onions, cinnamon and marjoram or thyme (I used both...) with a pinch of seasoning until softened, before adding chickpeas, water and a surprisingly large quantity of balsamic vinegar (which seems to be another of Jamie's preferred ingredients) and simmering until the sauce thickened, before removing from the heat.
I brought vegetable stock to the boil and added chopped dried fruit (Jamie suggested a range, of which I chose apricots and cranberries) and simmered until the fruit plumped up slightly, before adding olive oil and couscous, removing from the heat and leaving to soak up the liquid. Once the couscous had guzzled all the liquid, I poured it onto a large flat baking tray and drizzled with olive oil.
After 2 hours, I took the lamb out of the oven and turned the oven down from 220 to 200. Or at least that is what I was told to do. I confess that fear of incinerated lamb meant that I had had the oven at 200 anyway - my excuse is an over-exciteable convection oven, the weakness of my excuse being that I had turned the convection option off. Anyway, leaving aside my nervous recipe-breaking, I put the roasting tin on the hob and scraped at the sticky bits on the bottom (in the way you do to make gravy). I found a pot that would snugly fit the lamb inside and spooned an inch or so of couscous onto the base, before spooning over my chickpea mixture. I put the lamb on top, poured over the pan juices, and completely covered with couscous.
Jamie's pic didn't have any noticeable fruit in it but I kept most of the cranberries whole and ensured I scattered some over the top because I liked how it looked - sort of festive. The recipe said to put lemon halves on top but his pic clearly showed slices not halves, and slices looked better, so - more recipe-transgressing - I used slices. I then draped over damp and oiled greaseproof paper and foil and put back in the oven for an hour. Here it is, cooked:
Another anomaly: Jamie refers to the couscous as a crust that can be cracked, and his pic shows the couscous unevenly browned. Mine wasn't browning or hardening so I took off the foil and greaseproof, and then it did brown slightly and hardened a bit, forming a crunchy, rather than crackable, crust.
Jamie doesn't really say how to serve it apart from suggesting you serve it at the table, cracking it open. This would have been a potential disaster for us because our couscous crust came right up to the top of the pan; as we delved in we risked spillage. In the end we served it rustically, tearing off meat and scooping out chickpeas and couscous, before adding a generous dollop of natural yoghurt and drizzling over coriander and chilli.
This might have been my favourite savoury dish so far - I don't know; there has been a lot of competition. But it was truly divine. The couscous, the lamb, the dried fruit, the spices, the yoghurt and coriander, and balsamic-y, cinnamon-y, thyme-y chick peas - it was fantastic. I loved it and so did Simon. We had enough left for lunches for days, which means I had more for lunch today and still loved it. I do suspect that 220 in my oven could have been disastrous; I think lemon slices as Jamie has in his photo, but not in his text, look better than halves; and I think I was right to take off the greaseproof and foil at the end, but I could be completely wrong! What matters is that this is a grade A dinner and (the acid test) it is still making my mouth water now. Hurrah that there is more for lunch tomorrow!