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Tandoor-Roasted Boiled Leg of Lamb

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Boiled, marinated and then roasted in my tandoor, nothing is spared to turn this leg of lamb in the most tender and tasty morsel.

Boiling a leg of lamb is almost criminal. How about if you roast it in a tandoor afterwards? On Sunday I tried this traditional Indian recipe from Ranjit Rai's tandoor bible and it worked wonderfully! Inside the lamb is juicy and tender thanks to the boiling and marination, and outside it has intensely flavored crispy crust from the tandoor's hellish fire. A great success!

Ran-Nawabi
Tandoor Leg of Lamb by Ranjit Rai
1 leg of lamb with bone
1 onion
peppercorns
5 garlic cloves
1 piece ginger, peeled
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp yoghurt
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbs roasted coriander seeds
2 tbsp roasted cumin seeds
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp salt
oil for basting
saffran
silver foil

 

Meats roasted in a tandoor are always marinated first. The marinade has 3 functions. First it will tenderize the meat so it can be cooked through in the short time it will be in the tandoor. If you leave it too long, it will just burn and the center will remain raw. Second it will moisten the meat. And third the marinade will add flavor thanks to the spices.

Prepare the marinade by roasting 2 tbsp coriander seeds in a dry frying pan. When they smoke remove them from the pan and into a mortar. Proceed with 2 tbsp cumin seeds (photo) in the same manner.

Grind these spices to a fine powder and add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1 tbsp chili powder. Grind to combine intimately (photo).

Peel a thumb-sized piece of ginger and grate it finely. Combine with 3 tbsp unsweetened white yogurt, if possible hung curd or Greek full fat yogurt.

Squeeze about 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice into the yogurt.

Add the ground spices and half a cup vegetable oil - use oil that can withstand high temperatures.

Before marinating you need to boil the leg of lamb. It sounds barbaric but is necessary because otherwise a whole leg of lamb would burn to ashes in the tandoor before it is cooked through. Fill a large saucepan with water and add a peeled onion, 10 peppercorns and a thumb-sized peeled piece of ginger. Add the leg of lamb and bring to a low boil for 30 minutes (photo).

To make sure that the marinade will penetrate deep into the meat, we score it to the bone with a sharp knife. If we didn't marinate the meat and cook it for only a few minutes in the hottest of ovens, the tandoor, this would result in a desperately dry meat. But this heat from the fires of hell will sear the meat and keep the moisture in, preparing a meal worthy of paradise.

Pour the marinade around the meat and marinate for about 3 hours. There is such as thing as overmarination. Indian recipes call for very long marination because they use much tougher meat than we buy in the West. If you marinate too much, the lamb will be reduced to a pulp, like if the cook had chewed cooked lamb, then spat it and reconstituted it in meat loaf. Not very appetizing. On the other hand, undermarination will result in tough lamb or cooking time not compatible with the tandoor.

The meat is skewered on a seekh (long skewers for tandoor cooking). Indian tandoor chefs use ingenious combinations of potatoes, wooden skewers and threads to prevent food from slipping down the seekhs. None of these solutions is as simple, reliable and economical as using a rotisserie pitchfork as on the picture above. I don't understand how such thrifty and smart peoples as Indians go on wasting potatoes in tandoors (they end up quite burnt) when such a simple appliance would do.

The meat is ready to go into the tandoor. Any last words? I rested the seekh against the tandoor with a tray underneath.

I tried to take pictures of the meat cooking into the tandoor but it's so hot the camera just stops working. Really stops - no autofocus, no exposure, no nothing. Like trying to snap a picture of a bear by minus 50°C in Antartica. Or of the devil in hell. The only pictures I managed to take apart from the one above are disappointing (photo).

After 10 minutes, remove the meat from the tandoor and rest the seekh against the tandoor with a tray underneath to collect drippings, like pictures above. The bone section was actually boiling. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

Baste with oil with a little saffron. The original recipe calls for ghee (clarified butter) but the one I can buy here has a rancid taste whereas my oil is terrific. This basting prevents any drying. Put it back in the tandoor for 10 minutes or until cooked. Don't let it burn.

Cooking theory says lamb is cooked when - and only when - its internal temperature reaches 45°C. And yet, the inside of my leg of lamb was only about 25°C (photo) and perfectly grilled outside and juicy but cooked inside.

Let it rest a couple minutes before slicing at the table.

Ranjit Rai Tandoor Bible

This recipe and most of what I know about cooking with a tandoor comes from Ranjit Rai amazing book 'Tandoor', by far the most complete reference on Tandoor cuisine in English. Warmly recommended.

Published 28/05/2007
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19 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by BK
  • on: 29/05/2007
I never knew that meats have to be boiled before being sent into the hellfire of the tandoor!No wonder the tandoor chickens I ate in my country are so disgustingly dry and hard like paper!
  • #2
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 31/05/2007
Ha, ha, there are Tandoori chickens and there are Tandori chickens, as they say. My dad tells me when old-time Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall ordered the famous dish in India in the 50s-60s she was surprised when they brought her "three red skeletons" But the peppery ones we buy from stalls near highway liquor shops in Punjab (an Indian State) when we drive down to the hills (Himalayas) for weekends from Delhi are truly outstanding, especially with icy Indian beer - btw fx has a killer recipe for TC on this blog.
  • #3
  • Comment by jo jo eat 2 love
  • on: 01/06/2007
WOW! looks fantastic, I'm surprised though that with your skill that you don't clarify your own butter.
  • #4
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/06/2007
Thank you for your comments! Boiling the meat is a nice way to pre-cook it. Tenderizing with a marinade really changes the texture of the meat and can give a pre-chewed feeling, so the boiling is a really attractive alternation to a long marination. As for clarified butter you are very right, Jo-Jo, I should make my own rather than purchasing the rancid crap sold in some groceries. But good oil is not a bad substitute!
  • #5
  • Comment by parshu.naryanan
  • on: 14/06/2007
Hi fx, my friend javed's mum make whole leg of lamb (I should say leg of goat) in this painstaking way: She rubs the 'raan' (leg)with spices and salt, and then ginger garlic yogurt paste - and she keeps pricking it with a fork for nearly two hours pouring over the yogurt marinade all the time. After that it's ready for going into the oven or tandoor and when its out, it's done and delicate right to the bone. Javed's wife says this is his mum's punishment by fate for having begotten an evil son like him.:-)
  • #6
  • Comment by Lp
  • on: 22/01/2008
Hi fx I don't have a tandoor how do I prepare it in the oven?
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 23/01/2008
A fair question. The tandoor bring ultra high heat to create an almost charred crust on the leg of lamb. The meat can withstand this heat for only 15 minutes tops before burning. That's the kind of heat you need. Fortunately, there are several ways you can achieve that without a tandoor. 1) Use a very, very hot domestic oven. 2) Same using a roemertopf inside your oven and putting the skewered leg of lamb inside the heated clay pot inside the oven. Then the heat stored in the clay pot will compensate the heat absorbed by the relatively colder meat, much like in a wood-fired bread oven. 3) Finally, use a charcoal grill with very hot coals and position the leg of lamb right above the coals, with some device the catch the drippings that would otherwise cause a flare-up.
You need this for this recipe to work. Let me know if you do this and good luck!
  • #8
  • Comment by RL
  • on: 24/02/2008
Moi aussi j'ai acheté du ghee à Paris ('Khanum', je crois) mais il sentait affreux, on dirait le vomi... La marque 'KTC' est beaucoup mieux. A propos, où est-ce que vous achetez des feuilles de methi à Paris? J'en ai cherché au passage Brady et faubourg St-Denis mais je suis rentré bredouille...
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 26/02/2008
RL il vous faut chercher une épicerie indienne, qui ne vende que des produits pour les indiens, et leur demander des 'mehti leaves'. Je n'habite pas à Paris mais en Suisse.
  • #10
  • Comment by PBS
  • on: 11/12/2008
I prepared the lamb exactly per the recipe and cooked it in my tandoor that I have installed in my back garden.  I had 12 guests over for a wonderful outside party and can confirm that the lamb is superb!!!  One other simple trick for lamb is to marinate it in balsamic vinergette and tandoor bite size kababs - great especially the next day.  For other equally great Indian recipes may I recommend the Curry Secret.  If you have problems getting rice just right the book has the "secret". People now rave over my rice.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, I just ordered The Curry Secret, looks like a great book! I am really glad you tried this recipe, only few readers have a tandoor so it's very conforting to see it worked for you too!

Amazing just cant wait to try out this thing. and u know what i am off to the Market to buy the meat right away when i will be through it, i will get u the response of every body in my family
  • FX's answer→ Good luck!

  • #14
  • Comment by Akmal Wasim
  • on: 02/09/2009
Thank you Ranjit. This is the best recipe for the skewered raan. Closest to the original recipes. The recipe is surely from a connoisseur.
  • #15
  • Comment by Shawm
  • on: 20/06/2010
Why buy ghee when clarifying butter is so easy?  Take a stick or two of unsalted butter and melt in a small saucean.  Heat gently until the milk solids far to the bottom.  Pour or spoon off the clarified butter from the milk solids when it stops bubbling.
  • FX's answer→ Hear, hear, indeed that's the way of doing it, much better than the horrible ghee we find in shops.

  • #17
  • Comment by Jo
  • on: 01/05/2011
I tried this using a hot oven and it served the purpose very well, partly because my oven can reach a very high temperature. The meat was amazingly tender. I used a few slices the next day to have it with spinach and mushroom in pitta bread. We (my neighbour and me) thought it was rather wonderful.
  • #18
  • Comment by venu osuri
  • on: 05/08/2011
Hi!

Really good recipe.  I tried it and really liked it.  where do you purchase the rotisserie pitchfork?  I've tried looking for it online and in stores with no luck.  

thanks,

venu
PS  I live in the US.
  • #19
  • Comment by Rohit
  • on: 23/08/2011
Hi, I don't have a tandoor but have a roemertopf and conventional oven. Can you let me know the what should be the temperature of the oven (fan forced) and approximately how long does the lamb should be in. I know you have given the temperature of 25/45 degree but some pointers as to the minimum time it needs to be in. Thanks!

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