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Pink Leg of Lamb

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Superb Turkish recipe for a seared and simmered leg of lamb in a pink sauce.

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This is a very simple and delicious way of eating leg of lamb Turkish style. I discovered it in a book by Clifford Wright, a unique American cookbook author, food scholar and cultural historian much versed into Mediterranean cookery. It shows how to prepare regular yogurt so that you can simmer it for hours without ever splitting it. A lesson many Indian curry houses would benefit from!

Pink Leg of Lamb
1.5kg 3lbs deboned leg tied
3-5 garlic cloves slivered
Salt and pepper
1 cup tomato purée
5 allspice berries
1 cup stabilized yogurt made with:
1 liter/quart yogurt
1 egg white from a large egg
1 tbsp cornstarch

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To make the stabilized yogurt, pour your yogurt in a saucepan...

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... add the cornstarch and egg white. Use a whisk to combine thoroughly.

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Simmer for 5 minutes. That's it. Let it cool down and store in the fridge for later use. We will need only half this quantity for our recipe.

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Using a sharp and narrow blade, make deep incisions in the deboned and tied up leg of lamb.

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insert peeled garlic cloves in each hole.

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Season with salt and pepper. Heat a spoonful olive oil in a large Dutch oven ...

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... and sear the meat all over, turning until every side has turned in color.

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Prepare the yogurt and tomato concentrate.

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Add the concentrate much like you would in a Neapolitan ragù, either spoonful by spoonful ...

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... or all in one go if you are in a hurry and want to give up that caramelized tomato taste.

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Pour the stabilized yogourt and enjoy the contrast between red and white.

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Crush the allspice berries and add to the pot.

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Lute the pot with tin foil or a quick dough made with flour and water. The idea is to seal the pot shut. Bring to a boil before sealing, then place on the lowest flame or in the oven at around 100 °C and simmer for 2 hours.

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You should not exceed 100C° so that the leg of lamb remains rosy no matter how long you cook it.

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Slice and discover the gorgeously juicy inside, flavored with steamed garlic and swimming in the slightly tart pink sauce.

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Sorry for the poor food styling but I was so hungry by the time this was ready, the courage to bring out props and tools failed me. A most delicious recipe and very simple despite the relatively long cooking time.

I warmly recommend Real Stew by Clifford Wright.


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  • #1
  • Comment by Luci
Wow, Francois, what a beautiful recipe!  Always looking for innovative and tasty ways of cooking meat, and this looks very promising.  Hope you enjoyed this!
Low-temperature cooking can be incredibly rewarding. This looks delicious, but one question. What is "stabilized yogurt"
  • #3
  • Comment by Kate
As a little girl, whenever my mother would cook lamb I'd send the afternoon and evening gagging from the smell of it cooking.

I've found only one recipe that I could stand being around, or even consider eating. (Lamb shanks braised in a sweet/sour sauce).

...but that's all changed now.  I can almost smell that sauce... and the sight of that perfectly juicy, rosy, tender lamb is making me hungry.   

Now I've got a Lamb question:  Does it matter very much if the lamb you buy for this recipe is frozen?  I have very little problem getting local lamb that's fresh, but I have heard my mother say that she usually prefers the taste of the New Zealand lamb that we can buy frozen at the butcher over that of the Canadian lamb which we can get fresh from local farms.   Again, not being a lamb eater, I'm a bit in the dark about how much freezing affects the final texture of the meat.  

Finally:  Francois, your site is a constant inspiration to me.  Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you.  The photos and the careful explanations of cooking technique as well as your candor when you make a mistake keep me checking your site every day, hoping for a new FX kitchen adventure!  You make me laugh, cry out in envy and drool like a baby who's teething.  Please, don't ever stop.  :)
  • #4
  • Comment by Paulina  C. L. Tognato
François, I don't know the composition of five allspice berries.
Please, could you give me those names?
Thanks for all!!!!!!!!
  • #5
  • Comment by zeina
Hi, great website. I have been reading every article for a year now.
The recipe seems delicious. When I cook with yoghurt I use the whole egg without separating the yolk and the white, and pass them all with the yoghurt and the cornstarch through a sieve so I don't have to whisk, the result is also satisfying.
Thank you for the great work you are doing!!  
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Luci, this is a very simple and really beautiful confort food recipe. I loved it!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
iamnotachefyet, the stabilized yogurt is the thing I make at the beginning with the cornstarch/maizena and egg white. It ought to be mandatory for any yogurt-based sauce in my opinion!
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
Kate, thank you for your appreciation, I think if my little article brought you back memories of one of your mother's favorite dishes, that says a lot! For lamb, I am no expert but at the end of the day what matters most is the sort of life and food the lamb had. If your local farmer keeps his lambs under lock and key and feeds them industrial refuse, they won't be as good as proper lambs raised outside even if the latters are frozen. What you might do is call up a local gastronomic restaurant (fine dining), early in the morning, and ask them where they suggest you buy your lamb. They certainly have more contacts than you can have to locate the best lamb available in your area, and restaurant purveyors will often sell to individuals if you come and pick it up at their facility. Otherwise look at some farmers' market and ask people how they raise their lambs. Good luck!
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
Paulina, here is all about allspice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allspice
It has many names, probably 5 names in Portuguese only, I am sure you can find it in Brazil, it is quite popular!
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
Zeina, thanks for visiting regularly! The sieve is a very useful tool to mix ingredients thoroughly.
  • #11
  • Comment by Peter Johnson
A stupid thing - and I do cook.  The allspice, crushed, do they become soft whilst cooking or do the need to be strained?  Thanks
I just love this site!
Hey FX!

Great recipe! The color of the lamb meat looks very appetizing. I am an eager follower of fxcuisine, and as a Turk myself, appreciate when you bring the delicacies of the Turkish cuisine to attention. Next time you wanna cook Turkish, I would suggest one of thousands of eggplant variations!

PS: Was it a matter of chance, that you cooked Turkish, after Turkey squeezed past Switzerland to qualify to the quarter-finals :)?   
  • #13
  • Comment by Bart
I made this recipe tonight and I was a bit disappointed with how it turned out.  There were a couple of issues which I thought detracted from how good it could have been.

First, I always meticulously and fastidiously trim off almost every bit of fat from a leg of lamb when I prepare a leg of lamb.  This is because I think lamb fat is horrendously foul.  In doing this, I always end up with bite-size or big-bite-size chunks of lamb that I then sauté and braise or else thread onto skewers for grilling.  Since the leg in this recipe is to remain whole, I was only able to trim off the outer layer of fat and thus the intramuscular fat remained.  Some of the bites of lamb thus had this nasty fat attached, and those were bites I wish had never entered my mouth.

Second, the sauce in this recipe is fairly boring.  It tastes of yogurt, tomato, and allspice.  Those aren't bad things in and of themselves -- it's just that it's not a very complex flavor and I was looking for more.  I ate it and was thinking, "You know, this tomato sauce would be better if I had first sautéed some whole garam masala in some ghee, then added some ground cumin and coriander, and then some ginger-garlic paste, then added the yogurt and tomato sauce, let it simmer, and finished it with some chopped mint and cilantro."  Hmm... maybe I'm being too honest about what I *wanted* to eat instead of what I ended up eating!

However, I will retain the stabilized yogurt formula forever.  It's of no surprise that it uses two of what I call "magic ingredients" in the kitchen: eggs and corn starch.
Paulina, you can find allspice here in Brazil by the name 'Pimenta Jamaicana'. At least in Rio, you can find it in Zona Sul (substitute for whichever upscale supermarket exists where you live), in little disposable grinders
  • #15
  • Comment by Hamza
Bart, stop your whinning. It sounds like you wasted your time in the kitchen. This is Anatolian cooking, simple flavors and comforting food. The recipe is fine. Next time, troop down to your favorite Indo-Pak restaurant and leave good enough alone. If you want an orange, don't eat a grape and then complain it didn't taste like an orange.
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Peter you can leave the crushed allspice in the sauce, no worry.
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Ahmet, but I love Turkey and would very much like to receive hot tips about the best, most atmospheric and authentic place to get a kebab with roasted eggplants in the great city of Istanbul! Let me know if you have any tips and thanks for your appreciation. We love Turkey here no matter how well they played the ball against Switzerland!
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Bart, thanks for your detailed feedback. Indeed there are many ways of cooking a simmered leg of lamb, and an Indian would have included much spice and garlic to make a richer sauce. What attracted me to the recipe was the simplicity of the flavors and its proximity to Neapolitan ragù.
Hi Meister,

Needless to say looks great, just i'd like to rectify the yoghurt bit. This is a method called "meyane" and it is a traditional base for thickening soups etc., generally we do not separate the egg white from the yolk. And cornstarch is not usually added as coagulates for future reheating (but looking at your work there is no possibility of this for you :))also cornstarch generally reserved for desserts. Beat the eggs (numbers depends on the quantity) and beat in to the yoghurt as simple as that. Tricky part is the heating, say for example you want to make a yoghurt soup beat the ingredients and add the warm stock ladle by ladle while gentle stirring over a very low heat. Basically same scientific method anything with eggs and yoghurt or butter(for example say sauce Hollandaise)low heat fast stir does the trick. Once the mixing done you can increase the heat slowly and boil if neccessary. Egg yolks usually gives the heartiness. Keep up the great work, you are a 5 star cook.
  • #20
  • Comment by Samantha
What an awesome recipe!!! I made this for my husband on
Valentines and we both loved it. I have made something similar a long time ago from a cookbook I can't locate at the moment (Sultan's Kitchen). What I loved about this recipe was the the stabilized yogurt, that really helped out. Although admittedly I did not have enough time to let it sit at 100C for many hours and had to up the temperature in the last half hour to get it done more quickly. But wow what a great recipe. Thanks!!

Samantha Newman
  • FX's answer→ Samantha, I am happy to hear this one worked for you! Next time try the slow baking version, not difficult if you prepare everything the night before, then just get out of bed to place it in the oven at dawn, and take it out for a Sunday lunch!

I just made this last night for my Turkish husband, and he told me that his mother would be jealous of my skills. High praise indeed! Thanks so much for this recipe-from me and the husband.
Any idea what the Turkish name for this recipe is?
  • FX's answer→ Sorry I don't remember the Turkish name. High praise indeed, the best a wife can ever get for home cooked meal I think!

  • #24
  • Comment by Xavier
It may be my fxcuisine week, but here is one other dish I made tonight. It came out almost perfect. I like the principle of the stabilized yogurt and I will reuse it in other dishes for sure. I may add more spices next time to balance the tomato flavor which was maybe to prominent tonight.

Thanks again !
  • FX's answer→ Great, glad you managed to make this! Yes the tomato can be a bit sickly sweet (écoeurante), perhaps a bit of chile might liven it up?

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