Here in Australia, Lamb is probably our national meat dish.
In the US, I think it’s such an underrated meat, but done as I’ve cooked it here, with a delicious smoky eggplant baba ganoush and a chimichurri style dressing, I think you might just fall in love with it too!
This particular recipe uses several food influences with Mediterranean style wraps, with a Middle Eastern influence in the Baba Ganoush (smoked eggplant), and a South American chimichurri style dressing.
The smokiness of the eggplant elevates the lamb to the next level, whilst the freshness and acidity of the dressing cut through the richness of the lamb beautifully.
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How to make pulled lamb shoulder
I use a lamb shoulder for this recipe because it has an ideal fat ratio for smoking, much the same as a pork shoulder, or Boston Butt.
Lamb is a wonderfully full flavored, gamey meat, and stands up well to the herb rub that I pair with it here.
The rub I use creates an awesome bark on the lamb too.
The great thing about smoking lamb shoulder is that it’s so incredibly forgiving, that it is incredibly difficult to mess up.
It’s virtually impossible to overcook, and the only way to mess this up is by undercooking it.
Follow this method though, and you’ll look like an absolute Pitmaster, and your friends and family will be begging you to cook it again!
What you’ll need
The best thing about this dish is that other than a smoker capable of low and slow, you’ll only need a food processor for the baba ganoush and a few other basic ingredients.
I used store bought pita bread, but if you really want to impress, greek pita style flatbreads are easy to make. Here’s a video to show you how to make them yourself if you want to give it a go:
Making the rub
As I said before, you can be quite heavy with this rub, as the lamb will stand up to some fairly heavy flavors, and you’ll develop a wonderful dark bark with it.
The rub is so simple and uses herbs that complement lamb really well.
I tend to make this rub in bulk, as I eat a lot of lamb. you’ll need some dried mint, dried rosemary, dried oregano, and some salt and pepper.
The ratio of those herbs to use in the rub is as follows 2:1:1 with the mint, rosemary and oregano, and around half the amount of salt and pepper.
Don’t stress too much about getting the exact quantities right.
Preparing the lamb
Your lamb shoulder should generally come bone-in, and skin off, which is exactly how you want it.
There’s not much more to do with it from there, other than to trim any thick hard pieces of fat if there is any on your shoulder.
Rub your lamb shoulder with a drizzle of olive oil. This is just a binder for your rub, and you could use some American mustard if you like.
Cover your shoulder all over with your lamb rub, and you can be fairly heavy with it if you like.
Now is also a good time to prepare your eggplant, which is super complicated, so pay attention. You need to prick your eggplant all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Done.
Smoking the lamb
You’ll want to prepare your smoker at this point, set it up for around 250-275°F.
As I said before, lamb is super forgiving, so you don’t need to be too exact, but just keep it around that range. If it creeps up to 300°F, that’s ok.
Lamb will forgive you. I’m using Australian Ironbark for the smoking wood, primarily because I use a large reverse flow offset smoker, but I’ve used Peach, Plum, and Cherry with lamb, and they all go wonderfully.
As with the herbs, you can use some robust woods like hickory if you like, but I find lighter, sweeter wood works the best to let the flavor of the lamb really shine.
I wrap my shoulder in peach paper at around the 180°F mark, once I’m happy with the bark, and spritz with apple cider vinegar and water every 45 minutes or so before that.
You could wrap in aluminum foil if you can’t get peach paper. Your lamb shoulder should take around 7 hours at this temp, but check on it regularly using an instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen.
It’ll be ready around 205-210°F, but the best test is when it probes like butter using a metal skewer all over the shoulder.
If there are still some parts not probing like a hot knife through butter, leave it longer. As I said before, it’s very difficult to ruin it, and it won’t be dry.
If you want to following my serving suggestion, put your eggplant on the smoker at the same time as your lamb. Your eggplant will take around three hours, so you should pull it off when it resembles a banana that has been sitting on your kitchen work surface for 3 weeks, and feel like a melted ice cream sandwich still in its paper wrapper.
Now, whilst that doesn’t sound appetizing at all, believe me when I say it will be delicious when we finish it!
Making the Baba Ganoush & Chimichurri
Once your eggplant has been sat in your smoker for a few hours, it’s time to make your baba ganoush.
Let your eggplant cool slightly, then split lengthways, scoop out all the flesh, and put into a food processor.
Add the tahini (sesame seed paste popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine), and three cloves of finely chopped garlic.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
Blend with a drizzle of olive oil until it has the consistency of a loose hummus. Put in a bowl, and cover with cling wrap, then place into the fridge until needed.
Making the chimichurri (style) dressing
Purists will be screaming about how this ISN’T a chimichurri, and I get that. But it is based on a chimichurri.
If anything, it’s a cross between that and a Spanish mojo.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious!
You’ll need a bunch of flat leaf parsley, the same amount of cilantro, a clove or two of garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 3Tbsp of olive oil and 3 tsp red wine vinegar.
Chop the parsley and cilantro finely, and do the same with the garlic. Then, add a little salt to the garlic and use the back of a knife to grind the garlic to a paste, or use a mortar and pestle. You can use store bought garlic paste if you prefer.
In a bowl mix together all ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. And it’s that easy.
Pulling and serving the lamb
After giving your lamb a suitable rest (keep wrapped in foil and towel in a coolbox) for an hour or even longer, it’s time to pull your lamb.
You’ll know it’s done as the bone will slide out with zero resistance.
Using gloved hands (it will still be very hot) or two forks, pull the lamb into bite sized chunks.
I prefer chunks rather than really going to town and pulling it like a pulled pork. That way, you get some fatty, gamey meat texture whilst maintaining the integrity of the bark, and each mouthful means you’ll get a bit of texture and taste of everything!
Using a hot griddle pan, lightly toast the pitas on both sides – or cook them as per the video if you’re making your own.
They should be warm and soft rather than being crispy. Spread a good line of baba ganoush down the center, pile some pulled lamb on top, then drizzle some chimichurri/mojo inspired dressing over the top.
I add some very finely sliced red chili and red onion too, but this is optional. Fold/wrap the pita (depending on how generous you’ve been with the lamb) and get stuck into it.
Serve at your Big Fat Greek Wedding, or any other time you feel, along with a cold beer.
A wheat beer such as Hoegaarden will go insanely well with this. You can serve with fries too, and use any leftover warm pita bread to dip into leftover baba ganoush. Cheers mate!
- Whole lamb shoulder
- A drizzle of olive oil for binder
- One pita bread per person
For the lamb rub
- 4 Tbsp dried mint
- 2 Tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 Tbsp ground black pepper
For the baba ganoush
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Squeeze of lemon juice
For the Chimichurri
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 Garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
- 1 Tsp Cumin
For the pulled lamb
- Prepare smoker to 250-275°F.
- Trim any hard fat from your whole lamb shoulder.
- Combine dry rub ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Drizzle lamb shoulder with olive oil and rub all over before covering lamb with rub. You can also do this the night before.
- Lightly pierce eggplant all over with tip of a sharp knife.
- Place lamb and eggplant into smoker, and spritz lamb every 45 minutes.
- At 180°F internal temp, wrap the lamb with peach paper or heavy foil.
- After around 7 hours, or at between 205-210°F internal temp, your lamb should be ready. It should probe with a skewer like a hot knife through butter. Test in several places as the shoulder won't cook evenly.
- Rest your lamb for at least an hour covered in towels in a cool box, then pull into chunks.
For the Baba Ganoush and Chimichurri
- Smoke eggplant for 3 hours until soft.
- While your lamb is resting, split eggplant lengthway, and blend with all ingredients for baba ganoush until smooth. Put baba ganoush in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate
- Finely chop cilantro and parsley, and mince garlic using back of knife or mortar and pestle, then combine with ingredients for 'chimichurri'.
- If you are serving with pitas, heat them in a hot griddle pan until lightly toasted.
- Sread one Tbsp of baba ganoush on pita, then pile with lamb and drizzle with chimichurri dressing, and add finely sliced red chilli if desired. Devour