A: There is something majestic about cooking a big piece of meat, something that is not appreciated if you are not a meat lover. Since most of the friends who visit us are either vegan or vegetarian, I don’t usually get a chance to indulge in experimenting with a big piece of meat. It was therefore an opportunity I was looking forward to when we had a couple of friends visiting from France for the year end festivity.
A leg of lamb complete with the meat on the bone is what you need for this dish. Rick Stein’s journey through India last year has inspired me to try quite a few recipes from his book. I decided to try out his take on the Raan Mussallam.
There are some golden rules when cooking a good piece of meat. Slow cooking on very low heat is always much better than cooking on high heat. Marination for a long time helps to infuse the flavours inside the meat and this is the secret of the taste. Also resting the meat after roasting is essential before serving. There is also a secret that I have learned from Nilanjana’s experiments with bread baking. It helps a lot to keep the meat succulent if you put a tray of water in the oven to create a moist environment inside the oven. Armed with these basic principles, I dived in with my 2 kg piece of Welsh meat.
N: Anirban have been wanting to cook this for a very very long time and now there was no stopping him. I came back home from work to find half an animal on the top rack of the fridge. Our friends are connoisseurs of meat and it was assuring to know that it will be well appreciated. I was myself looking forward to rubbing the spicy paste on the meat. I have often watched, with envy, the love and care with which livestock farmers massage their herd. I hope one day in not so distant future I would be able to do that – massaging an Aberdeen Angus with Guinness. For now working the meat with the spice paste was my way of saying thank you for the food we were about to enjoy.
A: Ingredients for the spice paste:
75 ml vegetable oil
250 gm onions thinly sliced
30 gm cloves garlic roughly chopped
30 gm fresh ginger roughly chopped
55 gm cashew nuts
75 gm desiccated coconut
300 gm thick Greek-style yogurt
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp freshly mixed Garam Masala
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
Main Ingredient: 2 kg leg of lamb on the bone
I started off by heating the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan on medium heat. The onions go in first when the oil is hot enough. It takes about 10 minutes for the onions to take a deep brown colour. I added the ginger and garlic at this point and fried the mixture for 2 minutes. To get the spice paste, I put all the other ingredients along with the fried onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor and blended. Once cool, the paste is ready to be gently rubbed on the meat.
The meat needs to be pricked all over with a sharp knife making 1.5 cm incisions. About two-third of the marination paste needs to be gently rubbed on the meat placed on a roasting tray and then left aside for 30 minutes.
Marinated and ready to go in the oven
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 150°C. Once the roasting temperature is reached, insert a tray half filled with water at the bottom of the over. This will prevent the meat from going dry.
Put the remaining one-third of the marination paste in the bottom of the roasting tray along with 300 ml of water. Loosely cover the roasting tray with an aluminium foil and roast in the oven for one and a half hours.
After roasting under cover
At this point remove the foil from the roasting tray and let the meat roast without cover for another 30 minutes.
It’s ready 🙂
It is important to let the meat rest for at least 15 minutes outside the oven before carving fairly thick slices for serving. This is enough meat for 6-8 people.
Nilanjana baked some lovely pitta breads and I boiled some basmati rice to go with the meat.
It is a bit tricky to choose the red wine to go with this dish. The spice in the meat is pretty strong and most easy drinking reds feel rather tasteless. We tried it with a full bodied Chianti Classico Reserva which complimented the strong meaty taste. The other option could be a pale ale served at room temperature. Any drink which needs to be served chilled doesn’t go well as the taste buds are numbed by the cold and the lovely taste of the meat is lost.
N: The meat just gets better with time. We cut the leftover pieces the next day and cooked them with the juice from the bottom of the tray and it was divine. One can cook big pieces of meat only for such special occasions but I am going to try the spice paste as a recipe for gravy for smaller chunks of meat. I am not sure Anirban will approve but I will have to deal with it.