My sister-in-law's birthday. 8 mouths to feed. She sort of suggested she might like a curry. What would you do? I raced to the library and got out Madhur Jaffrey's classic "Indian Cookery" and jumped to her suggested menu page. When I saw this leg of lamb recipe I knew this was it- just had to get the lamb from our fantastic halal butcher and start marinating on the Thursday night. But was definitely worth it- it was absolutely delicious! And to accompany it, potatoes, rice and beans (all recipes listed separately- to ease filing issues). Broke all my rules in terms of prep time - that was ok though cause it was a Saturday and I had all afternoon to cook and really enjoyed it! The one ingredient I couldn't get at Coles was the white poppy seeds. Have found a great indian store though at 7 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick- Arora- and if there's something he doesn't have, I'd be surprised- one of those wonderful treasure trove stores- everything you need for Indian cooking- so we swung by there Saturday morning and grabbed the poppy seeds.
Served 8 comfortably
Shahjahani Leg of Lamb
Leg of lamb- around 2.5kg
900 g natural yoghurt
1/2 medium sized onion peeled and coursely chopped
300 g onions peeled and cut in fine rings
5 tbsp peeled coarsely chopped garlic
18cm piece of ginger, coarsely chopped
5 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp garam masala
blanched slivered almonds filled up to the 300 ml mark on a measuring jug (bless Madhur- an odd way of measuring- darn I should have weighed them after- but was about 2 of the packs you buy in the supermarket)
12 dried figs
6 tbs of white poppy seeds
2 nights prior (or one night will do apparently)
Remove all the fell (parchment like outer skin) and fat from the lamb. Jab it all over with a sharp knife.
Put all the yoghurt in a big bowl or deep tray (big enough to hold your lamb leg). Take around 4 tbsp of the yoghurt and put in the blender, the chopped 1/2 onion, the garlic, ginger, salt, cayenne and garam masala. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Pour the contents into the bowl of yoghurt and mix well. Put the leg of lamb into the yoghurt and rub the marinade into the meat. Cover well and refrigerate for 24 - 48 hours.
31/2 hours prior to serving
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Take a heavy roasting tin. Put the lamb at the centre and pour the marinade on and around it. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and put in the oven. Bake, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.
While the lamb bakes, set a cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. When hot put in the almonds- stir around until they have roasted lightly. Now grind them in a clean coffee-grinder or other spice-grinder. Add the almonds to the lamb sauce after 1 1/2 hours and mix well. Scatter the figs around the leg. Cover again, put the lamb back in the oven and bake for another 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
While the lamb is baking fry the onions. Line a plate with kitchen paper and fry onions in the oil until they start to brown around the edges. Let oil drain on the plate.
Roast the poppy seeds in a heavy based frying pan- aim is for it to be a couple of shades darker. Remove the seeds and allow to cool. Grind as finely as possible in a coffee or spice grinder.
When the lamb is tender, crumble the onions and add them as well as the ground poppy seeds to the lamb sauce. Mix gently. Spoon some of this sauce over the lamb and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.
To serve, I scooped out most of the (divine!) sauce and served separately with the lamb and figs on a plate for the lamb to be carved. Carve the meat at the table.