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Spicy Leg of Lamb Recipe

Leg Of Lamb Recipe

This spicy leg of lamb recipe is known as Raan of Lamb or Raan Massalam or Raan Masaladar. As far as I ascertain raan is a Punjabi word for 'leg' So this is an Indian equivalent of a Sunday roast; and it does have a festival feel about the dish.

I cannot find the recipe book where I first came across this - I'm fairly sure it was a Madhur Jaffrey book - but I have made it a few times. Since the dish does take a bit of time, this has been mostly for special occasions. (Of course it was tragic that I had to make it specially to put on the website :)

This leg of lamb recipe is of Muslim origin and is cooked all over North Western India and in Pakistan, in fact it is possible that it originates from the Peshawar region. Naturally there are many variations on this, using different spices, some recipes leave the leg of lamb whole while other would have you bone it or even chop it into cubes. In this version I will roast the dish but it can also be cooked in a large frying pan or wok.

This is not a spur of the moment dish - it takes a while to prepare and marinate and as it is quite a complicated dish to prepare, I will treat you to a few extra photos of the preparation.

Basic Ingredients

1 leg of lamb (see notes for quantities)
1 medium onion
4 inch(10cm) piece of root ginger
8 cloves garlic
pint (250ml) yoghurt
4 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 cup of unblanched almonds
1 lemon

10 cloves
2 teaspoons black cumin seeds
12 black peppercorns
teaspoon amchoor
2 inch(5cm) piece of cinnamon
Seeds from 10 cardamoms
1 nutmeg
Dried crushed chilli
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon saffron strands

Notes on Ingredients

Lamb. The quantities in this leg of lamb recipe are based on a whole leg of lamb of about 5-6lb (about 2½kg). This is quite a banquet but it is easy to do a half leg and halve all the quantities. I have used a whole leg for things like birthday parties but a ½ leg is good for a family meal (and that's what's in the photos). If you really want to go to town then you could try to get hold of a leg of goat mutton.

Black Cumin. You can use normal cumin instead

Salt. This is optional but does go towards the tenderizing process - omit if suffering from chronic saltaphobia otherwise use about ½ teaspoon..

Amchoor. Again this is a natural tenderizer, you can omit this and it won't really hurt. Some recipes use unripe papaya.

Almonds not only give the nutty taste but also act as a thickening agent, I have used 3 teaspoons of white poppy seeds instead and both are good.

Chilli. This is not meant to be a devastatingly hot dish so about 2 teaspoons of crushed chillis for the whole leg of lamb should be ok. You can adjust this to taste and you can make it hotter by chopping up fresh chillis into the first marinade.

Other spices. Coriander, mace, black cardamom, poppy seed and garam masala are other things I have seen in various recipes. Use at your own discretion.

Basic Method

Leg Of lamb recipe, prepared for the marinade

The lamb needs to be carefully prepared. You need to remove all the fat and the thin parchment (fell) below the fat. This is important so that the marinade can penetrate the meat.
Cut deep gashes into the leg all over - again so that the marinade can be pushed deep into the meat.

Leg of lamb recipe, first stage of marinade
Roast the cumin seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves.
Allow to cool and grind to a powder along with the cardamom seeds and dried chilli.
Grate the zest of the lemon
Put the garlic, ginger and onion lemon zest into a blender along with these powdered spices.
Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the blender and blend the whole lot into a coarse paste
Spread this paste all over the meat, top and bottom pushing it deep into the slits you have cut.
Leave this to marinade for about 1 hour

Leg of lamb recipe, final marinade

Grind the almonds to a powder
Mix this along with the sugar, nutmeg and turmeric into the yoghurt.
After the meat has marinated for an hour spread this yoghurt mixture over the meat
Again this should be pushed into the meat and coat it on all sides
Put the meat into a roasting dish and cover with cling film
Put into the fridge and marinate for 24 hours.

(The following day)
Remove the meat from the fridge and allow to warm to room temperature
Heat the oven to 220°C (Gas Mark 7, 425°F).
Remove the cling film and sprinkle the lamb with a little more brown sugar
Roast on high heat for about 15 minutes uncovered
Reduce the oven heat to 170C (Gas Mark 3, 325 F) and cover the meat with kitchen foil
Roast for about 3 hours

Remove from the oven and, using forks or spoons, put the leg on a plate and loosely cover with foil
Pour the juices from the roasting dish into a pan, heat on high heat until reduced to a thickish gravy

Notes on Method

It has to be stressed that for this leg of lamb recipe, the meat should be prepared well, it's fiddly and a bit messy trying to remove all the fat and parchment but the success of the dish does sort of depend on this.

I am sure that the first recipe I saw for this (and certainly many others that I have seen only use one marinade step - mixing all the ingredients together. This method lets the lemon juice soak into the meat before it contacts the yoghurt and this minimizes the 'splitting' of the yoghurt.

I have seen this leg of lamb recipe with marinating times that vary from 3 hours to 48 hours. I have always found this dish to be incredibly tender after 24 hours - maybe goat mutton would need more.

The initial roasting will caramelize the sugar and form a nice crust on the joint - ovens vary so it may be worth keeping an eye on it at this stage to make sure it doesn't burn.

Clearly the roasting time will depend on the size of the joint and the oven - the ½ leg of lamb that I cooked in the photos was roasted for about 1½ hours after the initial 15 minutes and this was very well cooked. As you are slow roasting this it doesn't have to be timed to the second.

To serve this, carve into thick slices. I eat this with naan bread and a vegetable dish like onion bhaji or cauliflower pakora - and of course the gravy you have made. A nice raitha is also nice with this. If you are doing this for a special occasion then you can serve it whole on a sizzler and carve it at table. (See top right)

Despite being very rich, my two grown up children and I managed to utterly destroy the above half leg of lamb (it's that tasty). It could serve 4 slightly more restrained diners and a whole leg should do 6-8 depending on size.

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