This tender leg of lamb, slowly oven-baked in a self-saucing yoghurt and spice marinade, tastes absolutely sublime and is a complete doddle to cook. It’s a fantastic dinner party dish that will get you lots of brownie points : ).
You will need…
- 1 large leg of lamb – about 2+kg
- 500ml thick Greek yoghurt
- 150g ground almonds
- 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon of green cardamom seeds
- 60g grated fresh ginger
- zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
- 2 teaspoons of chilli powder
- 2 tablespoons of fresh cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of Maldon salt
- A handful of toasted almond flakes and chopped coriander to garnish
- This dish needs to be made at least the night before you want to serve it so that the flavours can permeate thoroughly into the meat.
- Lightly toast the coriander, cardamom and cumin seeds with the black peppercorns in a dry frying pan for just a few moments to release the oils. Grind them coarsely in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the ground spices, garlic, ginger, yoghurt, ground almonds, salt, lemon zest and juice. Mix thoroughly into a paste.
- Score the lamb with a sharp knife – make deep cuts in a diamond pattern. Put it in a ceramic dish large enough for the leg to lay flat. Apply the spice paste to each side of the lamb, push it into every cut and encase the meat totally. Cover tightly with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
- The lamb takes around three hours to cook and needs about 15 minutes to rest once cooked. It should be taken out of the fridge at least an hour before it goes into the oven to enable it to get up to room temperature. So, if you want to serve it at e.g. 7 pm for dinner, take the meat out of the fridge about 2.45 and get the oven up to 180°C so it’s ready to go in the oven at around 3.45pm. The lamb should be soft and cooked through and can take a little longer in the oven if you’ve bought a really large leg so use your judgement.
- Just before you put the lamb into the oven, transfer the lamb into a deep roasting tray, pour about 150ml of water in the bottom, and cover tightly with foil. Once the temperature is right, cook in the oven for two and a half hours and resist the temptation to peek.
- After two and a half hours, remove the lamb and uncover it. Some of the paste will have fallen into the water and the lamb should be quite tender. Baste the lamb with the juices so that only a thin layer of the paste remains. Pour off the liquid into a saucepan. This will form the basis of the sauce. Put the meat back in the oven to brown. Remove when it’s done, cover with the foil to keep it warm and allow the meat to rest.
- Meanwhile, skim off any excess fat from the sauce in the pan and keep it warm on a low heat.
- When you serve the lamb, I like to place the leg directly into a large, shallow-sided bowl, pour the sauce over and around it and then sprinkle with toasted almond flakes and chopped coriander.
- Carry it to the table with pride, allow everyone to help themselves to lamb and sauce. The meat should be tender enough to pull off big chunks with a couple of serving spoons in.
- I serve this with basmati rice or naan bread, a dal, roasted cauliflower, spiced spinach and a cucumber raita.
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