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Sikandari Raan — Spiced Leg of Lamb

Excerpted from ‘Ammu: Indian Home Cooking to Nourish Your Soul’

spinner image Sikandari Raan — Spiced Leg of Lamb on a decorative plate with a fork and knife.
Laura Edwards

Serves 6 to 8

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 B.C. 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 honor the agreement between the 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.

This raan goes well with any bread, such as paratha or roti.

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  • 2 small legs of spring lamb, about 2 lb., 3 oz. (1 kg) each (alternatively, use a shoulder of lamb or a medium leg of mutton or lamb, cut into 2 pieces)
  • Generous 3/4 cup (200 g) ghee


  • 6 tbsp. Himalayan pink salt
  • 3 tbsp. mild chile 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 1 in. (2.5 cm) pieces of cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) malt or cider vinegar


  • 1⁄2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 in. (2.5 cm) piece of cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
  • 2 cloves
  • 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 salt and chile powder over the lamb. Put the legs into a sturdy roasting pan that you can use on the stovetop (you will need to reduce the liquid over the heat at a later stage). Mix the lemon juice with the ginger and garlic pastes 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 350°F (180°C). Cover the roasting pan with foil and cook undisturbed in the middle of the oven for 2 1⁄2 hours.

To make the masala, dry-roast the cumin and fenugreek seeds, cassia bark, cloves, cardamoms, and peppercorns in a heavy-based pan over 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 mortar and pestle.

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the foil. Melt the ghee and pour over the legs of lamb.

Put the roasting pan on your burner 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 with the ground spices. Sprinkle the masala over the lamb and roll the legs in the roasting pan 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.

Extracted from Ammu by Asma Khan (Interlink Books, $35 USD). Photography by Laura Edwards.


Cook With Chef Asma Khan

spinner image Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul by Chef Asma Khan book cover
Interlink Books

Two more recipes from Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul:

Chapati — Whole-Wheat Bread

Everyday bread eaten by many families in India and meant to be eaten hot and immediately.

Buttermilk Chicken Pakoras

These are the halfway house between a chicken nugget and a spicy pakora that is sold in dhabas, or roadside eateries, along the Indian highway.

Read our interview with Chef Asma Khan.


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