Royal leg of lamb

Royal leg of lamb

Reza’s Indian Spice

A simplified version of a palace dish – shahi raan – and beautifully rich and impressive. Shahi means royal and this has certainly been given the royal treatment. Check the sauce when you baste the lamb: if it looks dry, add water. For pink lamb, only cook for two hours in total.


Quantity Ingredient

For the lamb

Quantity Ingredient
1.5kg leg of lamb
5 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil, plus more for the tray
1 tablespoon flaked almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

For the first marinade

Quantity Ingredient
1 1/2 tablespoons white poppy seeds
2 tablespoons flaked almonds, plus more to serve
1-2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons cashew nuts
2 onions, cut into chunks
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
6cm piece of root ginger, chopped
6 green chillies
6 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves and stalks, plus more to serve
1 lemon, juiced

For the second marinade

Quantity Ingredient
3 onions, thinly sliced
300g greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, steeped in 3 tbsp hot milk for 10 minutes

For the spice mix

Quantity Ingredient
3 star anise
3-4 blades mace
2-3 cassia barks or cinnamon sticks
8-10 green cardamom pods
3 black cardamom pods
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2-3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds


  1. Trim off the parchment-like skin and surface fat from the lamb, or get your butcher to do it. Slash it all over and place in an oiled roasting tray. For the first marinade, in a frying pan, toast the poppy seeds until they exude a nutty aroma and become a few shades darker. Put into a bowl with the almonds, raisins and cashews. Pour over 80–100ml of boiling water and soak for 15 minutes. In the same pan, dry-fry the onion chunks until they soften and form brown patches. Add to the nut mixture. Put the nut and onion mixture, with the soaking liquid, into a blender with the garlic, ginger, chillies, coriander, lemon juice and salt. Blend to a fine paste. If the paste is too coarse, add a little water. Massage the mixture over the lamb and into the slashes. Cover and refrigerate for two to three hours.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp of the ghee in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced onions. Fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, reserving the ghee. Put two-thirds of the onions into a blender with the yogurt and saffron milk. Blend to a fine paste. Put all the spices for the spice mix into a frying pan and gently toast until they release their wonderful aromas. Remove from the heat and grind to a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder. Mix 2–3 tsp of the spices into the yogurt mixture and season with salt (store the rest in an airtight container for up to six weeks; you’ll definitely use it again!). Allow to infuse for an hour. Remove the lamb from the fridge and massage in the yogurt mixture. Return to the fridge and marinate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Return the lamb to room temperature. Pour over the ghee from the onions, the remaining 2 tbsp ghee and 300ml water. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes, basting once. Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C and cook for about three hours, basting every 30 minutes, until the meat falls off the bone, adding a further 300ml water halfway through. If the sauce starts to dry out too fast, keep adding water and continue to baste.
  4. Serve on a platter garnished with toasted flaked almonds, the reserved fried onions and chopped mint.
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