Cumin Crusted Lamb with Watermelon Chutney

Cumin Crusted Lamb Chops with Watermelon Chutney

Like cilantro or licorice, lamb is one of those polarizing foods that people feel strongly about either way. I used to find the barnyard aroma unpleasant at best, but as I ate it more, it went from offensive to tolerable to delicious. If my track record of posting lamb dishes is any indicator you might even say I’ve come to love lamb.

Full of umami like pork but with the juicy red flesh of beef, lamb is indeed a marvelous meat. For me, overcoming the smell and loving the meat can be fully attributed to one spice: cumin. Ironically, cumin by itself is also an ingredient that some people find offensive. I’ve even heard it compared to “sweaty socks” before.

But when combined with other spices or meat, cumin adds a wonderful deep nutty flavor that turns smoky when toasted. By “breading” the rack of lamb in cumin, celery seed, fennel and coriander seed, it creates a salty smoky crust that crackles with flavor with each bite. As you bite into each chop, the crust gives way to a moist, tender interior that will have you gnawing every bit of meat and spice off the bones.

To balance out the salt and spices I’ve paired this with a sweet and spicy watermelon chutney. In addition to balancing out the savoriness of the dish, the chutney adds a fresh vegetal flavor that compliments the rich meat nicely. I also served this with a celery raita that adds cool, creamy, and crunchy elements that complete the dish.

for chutney
2 cups fresh watermelon juice strained through a tea strainer
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon amchoor powder (powdered mango)
1 clove
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)

for raita
1 stalk celery cut into 1/4″ dice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon toasted black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon toasted celery seed
1/4 teaspoon grated garlic (about 1 small clove)

for lamb
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoons coriander seed
2 tsp kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
1 rack of lamb, frenched

For the watermelon chutney, put the watermelon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. You can skim off the red foam that floats to the surface, but I left it in for color. Add the ground cumin, coriander, amchoor powder, clove and salt. Continue boiling until it’s reduced in volume to about 1/2 a cup. It should be thick and syrupy, like a loose gravy. Transfer your chutney to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

To prepare the raita, add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the celery and let it stand for about 1 hour. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the celery and add it to a small bowl with the yogurt, salt, honey, mustard seed, celery seed, and garlic. Stir to combine and keep refrigerated.

For the lamb, put the cumin, celery, fennel and coriander seed in a cast iron skillet and toast over medium high heat until the spices are medium brown and fragrant. Transfer them to a spice grinder, and give it a few quick pulses to break up the seeds (but not long enough to turn it into a powder). Combine the spices and salt and sprinkle it onto the rack of lamb. You want to get a nice thick coating, so us all of the spice rub.

If you are grilling the lamb, place the rack over indirect heat until an instant read thermometer reads 130 degrees F (medium rare). If you are pan frying, add some oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat and fry each side of the lamb until it reaches a dark golden brown. Finish it off in a 350 degree oven until an instant read thermometer reads 130 degrees F (medium rare).

Transfer the rack to a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice the lamb between each rib, then plate with a drizzle of watermelon chutney and a side of celery raita.

  • Peter

    Gorgeous, meaty rack of lamb…love the spices here and lamb can hold up to it. As for those that don’t like lamb, they are in the minority. If you think of the nations that enjoy lamb, goat, mutton, etc….the “fans” far outweigh those that turtle away from this fabulous meat.

  • Styleyourfood

    wow that lamb looks so good. I am excited about doing this recipe. thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Emily @ Foodie/Nutritionist

    This looks great! I really like lamb but it never really occurs to me to cook it myself. Thanks for the recipe!

  • davina

    the smell of lamb took a little getting used to but the flavour of the meat is impossible to dislike! this looks delish, and what a chutney!

  • A Little Yumminess

    This looks so good…getting made real soon here! :)

  • LimeCake

    Lamb is one of the best vehicles for cumin (or should it be cumin for lamb?). this looks really good, marc!

  • Hungry Jenny

    Droool…it’s quarter to 8 here in the morning and I want that lamb for breakfast!!

    Hungry Jenny x

  • Claudia

    The breading on your lamb sounds marvelous. And, did the flavor of watermelon come through among all the vibrant chutney spices?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks! The watermelon flavor is definitely there, tastes vegetal, kind of
      like cucumbers, which made it refreshing.

  • Rsp SEO

    this looks really good

  • Pretty. Good. Food.

    Mmmm, sounds fantastic! Great photos :)

  • Wwsheep

    I would like the recipie for meatballs and “pickled vegetables” served at Trailing of the Sheep festival of Saturday. Absolutely fabulous.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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