Asma Khan is the chef and owner of Darjeeling Express in Garrick Street, Covent Garden, and was the first British chef to feature on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Ammu, just recently published, follows her debut award winning cookbook Asma’s Indian Kitchen and is a delight. It’s a collection of childhood recipes that celebrates the power of home cooking and the inextricable link between food and love. Asma is a firm believer in the healing power of food, and through lockdown, she began to turn more often to the food of her childhood, and through this felt comfort and connection to distant loved ones. With over 100 recipes of simple comfort food, recipes for special occasions, quick everyday dishes, and personal memories, Ammu is a celebration of the food Asma herself loves cooking, and of the woman who nurtured her and taught her to cook: her Ammu. Ammu is a lovely hardback, just published at £26 by Ebury Press, with photographs by Laura Edwards. Here is a delicious lamb recipe from Ammu for you to try, and to tempt you to buy the book itself.
Sikandari Raan (Spiced Leg of Lamb)
This was the Raan made the night before I left my home – my henna night – the meal my mother fed me by hand. In some ways, for me, that was the night of my biggest loss… leaving Ammu. But in my loss there lay ahead my victory – when I could recreate this meal for others; where I used food to empower myself and other women around me. It is an auspicious dish that takes time to cook but it is worth the wait. The story behind this dish is that it was made for the defeated Indian king Porus by the chefs of Alexander the Great after the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC. The battle took place along the banks of the River Jhelum (which is now in modern-day Punjab in Pakistan). This special Raan was made for a banquet to the honour the agreement between two kings. The original recipe is, of course, lost in the mists of time, so this is my family’s version. The use of the local Himalayan pink salt and the pungent, sulphuric black salt, kala namak, is what makes this recipe so unusual . Raan goes well with any bread, such as paratha or roti.
2 small legs of spring lamb, about 1kg each (alternatively, use a shoulder of lamb or
a medium leg of mutton or lamb, cut into 2 pieces)
6 tbsp Himalayan pink salt 3 tbsp mild chilli powder 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp ginger paste
4 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp black cumin seeds (shah zeera) 4 large Indian bay leaves (tej patta)
3 x 2.5-cm pieces of cassia bark 120ml malt vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2.5-cm piece of cassia bark
2 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp white peppercorns
1 tsp kala namak (black salt)
2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder), or juice of 1/2 lime
Using a knife, make a couple of incisions on both sides of the lamb and release the meat from the bone at the top of each leg, so you can push some of the marinade between the bone and the meat. Rub the pink rock salt and chilli powder over the lamb. Put the legs into a sturdy roasting tin that you can use on the hob (you will need to reduce the liquid over the heat at a later stage). Mix the lemon juice with the ginger and garlic and rub all over the lamb. Mix the black cumin, bay leaves and cassia bark with the vinegar, then rub this over the lamb too. Leave for 30 minutes, turning the legs in the vinegar and spice marinade and ‘basting’ the meat with the marinade at 10-minute intervals.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Cover the roasting tin with foil and cook undisturbed in the middle of the oven for 21/2 hours.
To make the masala, dry roast the cumin and fenugreek seeds, cassia bark, cloves, cardamoms and peppercorns in a heavy-based pan over a low heat, stirring until they turn a few shades darker. Tip them onto a plate and leave to cool. Grind to a powder, using a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar.
Remove the tin from the oven and remove the foil. Melt the ghee and pour over the legs of lamb.
Put the roasting tin on the hob and bring the liquid to a slow rolling boil, turning the lamb once or twice, until the liquid is reduced. Turn off the heat.
To finish the masala, mix the black salt and amchur powder with the ground spices. Sprinkle the masala over the lamb and roll the legs in the roasting tin so all the remaining liquid sticks to the lamb. Taste, and if the seasoning needs to be adjusted, add more Himalayan pink salt.
To serve, place the lamb on a large serving plate and carve into thick slices at the table.