With wintry weather set to stick around for a while, it’s time to hunker down and seek solace in rich wine and food. I originally made this at Christmas time, but it’s just as good for the dark midwinter when we’re all in need of celebrating something…. anything.
This lamb, specifically, which originates - minus a few riffs and adaptations - from Asma’s Indian Kitchen, the exceptional new cookbook written by Darjeeling Express’ Asma Khan. As Khan notes, this leg of lamb, which marinates overnight in a yoghurt mixture before roasting, is a showstopper dish that is traditionally served at weddings or other celebratory occasions. Made with yoghurt and grated green papaya, the marinade tenderises the lamb as it perfumes it.
A dish as rich and intensely flavoured as this lamb deserves a wine of similar boldness, and the exemplary Le Pech Abusé is just the bottle to seek out. Made by Domaine du Pech (located in southwestern France’s Buzet region), it is exactly the kind of wine I like in the winter, which is to say abundant in dark fruit flavours, full-bodied, but edged by a balancing undercurrent of leather and wood and smoke (prior to bottling, it’s aged for 30 months in 200-year-old oak foudres).
A blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc, Le Pech Abusé pours an opaque, inky black. It is a wine for celebrations, for fireplaces and cold nights - and for lamb.
Indian-Spiced Roasted Lamb Leg
Adapted from Asma’s Indian Kitchen
150ml vegetable oil or ghee
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 threads saffron
1 tablespoon milk
100g Greek yoghurt
6 tablespoons clotted cream
4 tablespoons grated green papaya
3 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1.5-kilo (3.3-pound) bone-in lamb leg
1. Prepare your lamb the night before you plan to serve it. First, prep ingredients for the marinade. Add the vegetable oil or ghee to a large frying pan and place over medium- high heat. Once hot, add the onion and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for approximately 35 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onion is caramelised and softened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a ramekin or small bowl, lightly crumble the saffron threads. Pour over the milk and leave to infuse. 3. In a large bowl - large enough to fit your entire lamb leg - add the Greek yoghurt, clotted cream, grated papaya, salt and spices. Mix to combine.
4. Once the onions have cooled, strain and discard the oil and transfer the onions to a food processor. Blend on high until the mixture is a rough paste. Transfer to the yogurt mixture and stir through. Add the milk and saffron and stir to combine.
5. Using a sharp knife, make small slits over the surface of the lamb. Rub the lamb in the marinade, and work the mixture into the slits. Cover and chill overnight.
6. Remove the lamb from the fridge roughly one hour before you plan to cook, and leave to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Place a wire rack over a foil-lined baking tray, and transfer the lamb to the rack.
7. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 180°C (350°F). Continue to roast for roughly one hour more, or until the lamb is cooked to your ideal degree of doneness. Insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the lamb; it should be 49°C (120°F) for rare, 52°C (125°F) for medium-rare, 57°C (135°F) for medium, 63°C (145°F) for medium- well, and 66°C (150°F) for well-done. If you prefer your lamb rarer, begin to check its temperature earlier in the cooking process. 8. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.