Leg of Lamb w/ Spiced Yoghurt

I love my cookery books dearly and some have long and personal histories. One of these is my first spice book, a battered copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking. As an actress who came to London in the 1970s, she would regularly write letters home for her much-missed family recipes. These were turned into a TV series and book which went on to sell half a million copies.

This is one of those recipes, slightly adapted, in which a leg of lamb is marinated, ideally for at least 24 hours. With a large leg of lamb, ask the butcher to remove the aitch bone at the top of the leg. Also ask them to chop the very end of the leg close to the meat so that it will fit in the roasting dish snugly.

This Leg of Lamb goes great with crunchy green beans with mustard seeds

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To prepare the Leg of Lamb w/ Spiced Yoghurt

Remove any fat from the outside of the leg of lamb as well as any parchment type skin. With a small utility knife, cut a few gashes over the top and underside of the lamb.

To marinate the lamb

In a blender, whizz the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies until puréed to a fine paste. Mix in the marinade spices and the ground almonds. Place the yoghurt and salt in a bowl and add the spice paste. Place the lamb snugly into a dish. Rub the paste into the gashes and all over the top and underside of the lamb. There is a lot of marinade but the excess will be used as a pouring sauce. Cover the dish in clingfilm and place the lamb in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Allow the lamb to come to room temperature about 1 hour before cooking.

To cook the lamb

Preheat the oven to 200˚C, 180˚C fan, 400˚F, Gas 6.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when hot, add the cloves, cardamom pods, black peppercorns and cinnamon. Leave for about 10 seconds to allow the cloves to swell and then pour the contents of the pan over the lamb. Cover the lamb with foil and place in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil, baste the lamb and return it to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes. The exact timing will depend on the size of the leg. If you have a meat thermometer, a temperature of about 54˚C-57˚C / 130˚F-135˚F is ideal for medium rare lamb. Allow the lamb to rest for about 15 minutes before carving.

To prepare the raita

Put the yoghurt in a bowl. Beat lightly with a fork until smooth and creamy. Add all the other ingredients and mix. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

To roast cumin seeds: Put 2-3 tabsps of whole cumin seeds in a small heavy frying pan and place the pan over a medium flame. Stir the seeds and keep roasting them until they turn a few shades darker. As they turn colour, the seeds will emit a wonderful roasted aroma. Remove from the pan. Allow to cool and serve with the lamb

To cook the green beans

Blanch the beans in a pot of boiling water for 3–4 minutes, or until they are just tender but still with a nice bite. Drain immediately in a colander. If you are preparing the green beans in advance, plunge them directly into cold water, leave for a few minutes till cold and then drain. The beans may be blanched ahead of time.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add in the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop, add the garlic and the red chilli. Stir for a few seconds. Put in the green beans, salt and sugar and stir to mix. Turn down the heat to low and cook the beans, stirring regularly for 7–8 minutes, until they have absorbed the flavour of the spices. Serve immediately with the lamb

Ingredients

Serves 6
2.25kg leg of lamb

For the Marinade

220g onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic
4 x 2.5cm pieces ginger, chopped
3 fresh green chillies, seeds left in and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin
1½ tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala
50g ground almonds
600ml Greek yoghurt
3 tsp salt

Tempering Spices

4 tbsp sunflower oil
6 whole cloves
16 cardamom pods
10 black peppercorns
2 x 5 cm sticks cinnamon

Cucumber & Mint Raita

570ml natural yoghurt
13cm of cucumber, peeled and coarsely grated
2 tbsp of finely chopped fresh mint
½  tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Green Beans

450g green beans
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 hot dried red chilli, broken slightly so that it releases some of the seeds
1 tsp salt
½ tsp caster sugar

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