Every year we’d visit my maternal grandmother’s house to celebrate Christmas, being a large family you could bet the celebrations would be fun and the dinner table filled. My grandmother prepared most of the main dishes and would then ask each of her four children to bring one item. We’d have an assortment of traditional Goan food and a few non-traditional dishes which if successful would eventually start to show up every year. We’d have either beef, chicken, lamb, and/or pork dishes laced with fragrant spices and coconut milk, fresh salads, braised vegetables with bread and rice. One of my grandmother’s favorite non-traditional dishes that she made every year, was her delicious Chinese sweet and sour shrimp, I am not sure why she included it on her menu, but it was fantastic and none of us ever thought to question. My grandmother passed away several years ago and the family is spread far and wide but they still try to come together every year to celebrate the holidays as one.
Since I now cook for two, our holiday meals are generally less grand with the exception of when I’m hosting a Christmas dinner for my friends. I tend to make one or two dishes that remind me of Christmas at my grandmother’s house to keep my memories alive. I try and alternate the dishes each year and this time I’m including lamb on our menu.
This roast is aromatic and you will inhale the scent of the mint, garlic and the spices as the seasoned meat hits the searing oil in the pan. The spice mix in this recipe has a few simple ingredients that impart flavor to the meat. I use coriander seeds here which have a very different and unique taste than fresh cilantro leaves (although they come from one and the same plant), coriander has a more nutty, woody and earthy smell. For the garnish I recommend using cilantro but it can be easily replaced by fresh parsley leaves.
Lamb is one of my favorite meats to cook, it is extremely popular in Indian cuisine and a highly prized treat at that. I treat the meat with extreme care when preparing it. I like to trim off most of the fat and gristle from lamb to get rid of the gamey taste that some people dislike. This roasted leg is delicious and one of my favorite ways to prepare lamb during the holidays, and it’s super easy which always makes life easy because the holidays as we know can be a stressful time. I normally serve this dish for the main course with rice or bread and a few sides.
roasted spiced leg of lamb
yields: 4 servings
2.5lbs boneless leg of lamb
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried mint (fresh mint can also be substituted)
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro/parsley to garnish
1. Wipe the lamb dry with a clean paper towel. Trim and discard any excess fat and gristle. Prick the lamb all over with a fork.
2. Grind the spices from the salt to the cloves in a coffee mill or spice grinder until smooth. Toss the garlic into the spice mix and rub the meat all over with this spice mix. Roll the lamb to form a log and tie it tightly with the kitchen twine at approximately 3/4″ intervals. Wrap the meat with cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (For a more flavorful roast, I keep the meat wrapped in the refrigerator overnight).
3. Preheat the oven to 400F and place a rack in the middle. Put the olive oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet (or an oven-safe pan) and place on a medium high flame until the oil begins to get very hot. Remove and discard the cling film, place the meat on the pan and sear on each side for 8 minutes. Transfer the skillet with the meat into the oven and allow it too cook until the internal temperature reaches 120F (for medium rare) or 130F (for medium).
4. Remove the skillet from the oven and cover the skillet with a tent made out of aluminum foil and let the lamb rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This will help to let keep the lamb moist. I generally prefer to cut the lamb in 1/4″ thick slices before serving.