Lamb Raan

This show-stopping Indian roast lamb dish makes an excellent centrepiece to any feast. Prepared the day ahead, it's a low-maintenance alternative to Christmas dinner or a traditional roast.

Introduction

Alexander the Great was quite a man: educated by Aristotle; commander of the biggest empire in the world by the age of 30; and a dab hand in the kitchen. Legend has it that on conquering India and dethroning King Paurava, Alexander became great friends with the ex-king. To recognize their new friendship, Paurava held the banquet to end all banquets, the centrepiece of which was a barbecued and spiced leg of lamb: lamb raan.

This is a great dish befitting great guests; just be sure to start it the day before they arrive.

Serves 6 to 8 (a small army)

Ingredients

a large leg of lamb, around 2.5kg
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
seeds from 6 cardamom pods
250ml whole-milk yoghurt
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
7.5cm ginger, peeled and finely grated
150g ground almonds
1/2 lemon, juice
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
400g shallots
rapeseed oil

Instructions

The day before you want to serve the dish, score the leg of lamb with a sharp knife, making deep cuts in crosses on both sides, and set aside.

In a spice grinder, or pestle and mortar, grind the cumin, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cardamom together. Put the spices into a large bowl, and add the yoghurt, garlic, ginger, almonds, lemon juice, chilli powder, ground cinnamon and salt.

Rub the marinade on to the lamb and into the grooves, then transfer to a large polythene food bag or a casserole dish and cover. Leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day, around 3 hours before you want to serve the lamb, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas 4.

Transfer the lamb to a deep roasting tray, pour 125ml of water into the tray and loosely cover with foil. Cook for 2¼ hours for lamb that is pink in the middle, and 2½ hours if you like it more
well done.

Forty-five minutes before the finished cooking time, add the unpeeled shallots to the pan and lightly drizzle with oil. With 20 minutes to go remove the foil so that the lamb browns nicely. Take the meat out of the oven, cover with foil and rest it for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Some great accompaniments to this are my spinach with black pepper, garlic and lemon (see page 179), roasted cauliflower with cumin, turmeric and lemon (see page 191), mint and yoghurt chutney (see page 219) and naan bread (see page 199).

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