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Entries in Tandoori cooking (1)


A Lamb Tale...

Anyone who has ever read me or knows me in the flesh world, knows that I am married to an Englishman.  I mean, I whine about it a lot.  I adore my husband, don't get me wrong.  I don't whine about him the person (well, yes OK, I do, but we're not going there in this little narrative), I sometimes whine about his "Englishness."  Listen up Americans, we're not like them.  As much as you would like to think we are, we are not.  And furthermore, we do not even really share a common language with a different accent.  We do not say "whilst" or "Hark! Did you hear that sound?" or even "Stop giving me "agro."  Also, culturally, we're really different.  Just look at our huge bruhaha over a national healthcare plan.  That should be your first clue.  We won't discuss guns or capital punishment.  Of course to good ol' liberal Me, the  English ideas about these issues are the right ideas.  All this being said, this little tale (tail) isn't about the esoteric, but rather the mundane, a bonless, rolled leg of lamb available at any Costco store nationwide. (Ignore the dates on the package, some of these are photos I took last Easter)
We were at Costco last Thursday.  As usual I was lollygagging along at the meat counter dreaming of recipes yet unmade.  Husband flitted over and said, "Oh, can  we get a leg of lamb?  I fancy (see?...some more real English venacular) some lamb."  I said, "But of course, My Darling" or something to that effect.  Maybe I said, "Oh, OK, but if you get lamb, I'm buying that big box of frozen enchiladas you never want me to have, deal?"  So we got the lamb AND the enchiladas.  Yay Me for knowing how to negotiate.  Donald Trump should invite me to be on The Apprentice tv show.  I had a lamb plan.
Usually lamb at our house is regular roast lamb.  We have it with roasted potatoes and vegetables and sometimes Yorkshire puddings.  It's all veddy veddy English.  It's always good, but rather ummmmmm, meaning no offense here, English...plain.  Yes, that's it.  Tasty but plain.  If the English style roast leg of lamb could sing, it would croon a rendition of "There'll be Blue Birds over the white cliffs of Dover."  I want my leg of lamb to belt out "Jerimiah was a bullfrog."
While channel surfing, I had recently come across an episode of  that Food Network madman, Guy Fieri.  He's the kind of guy I would have dated in my younger days.  Do you know of him?  If not and you're an American with cable television, catch his show.  It's great entertainment and he features some fantastic recipes.  This particular episode featured Tandoori-style lamb done on the bar-b-que grill.  My ears perked up.  as I watched him prepare the dish I was enthralled.  As much as I love roasted lamb and potatoes English-style with all the trimmings, I began metally kissing those Yorkshire puddings and rich gravy good-bye.  I was scheming how I could don my imaginary Bedouin outfit and sneak this tandoori lamb recipe into my repetoire of cooking tricks.  Our trip to Costco and husband's plaintive request for the leg of lamb, unbeknownst to him, provided the impetus for my nefarious  Tandoori-style grilled lamb escapade.  I was giddy with the pure joy of executing the plan.
The plan began with me making the marinade.  It was easy to make and I had all of the ingredients called for, including plain Greek yogurt.  I did change the recipe around a bit.  Fieri's recipe calls for whole cumin seeds and whole coriander seeds that are smoked and  then ground in  a processor.  I had jars of ground cumin and ground coriander so I smoked that.  I mean, why cause extra work for oneself just to feel like a gourmet chef, right? 
Once I had the marinade made, I called husband in to help me with the lamb.  Usually, when I make a boneless leg of lamb, I have husband un-net it.  I lay it flat and slather it by hand with a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper made into a paste.  Then, I re-roll the lamb and husband, using both hands, stretches the netting open (It's elasticized) and we work cooperatively to stuff the leg of lamb back into the netting.  It's somewhat like trying to help a fat lady into a girdle, lots of huffing and puffing, but we get it done.  So husband comes in  a undoes the lamb's netting/girdle. 
I say, "OK, lay the lamb out and make some slits in it with the knife going into the middle but not through."
I see him start to squint his eyes a little, but he does it. 
I hand him a two gallon ziplock bag and say, "Lay the lamb flat in here."
I grab the bowl of marinade from the refrigerator and say, "Dump the marinade in the bag and......."
At this very point, my husband turns into someone I have never known.  Wait, I take that back.  At this point my husband turns into my ex-husband and I remember why we divorced.  My very gentle, sweet English husband begins screaming at me...
"I am NOT putting that mess on this perfectly good lamb.!"  "What are you doing with my lamb?"
He starts trying  to pull the lamb from the bag.  I did not know who this man wearing my husband's face was.
I am not English.  I am very American.  Therefore,  I always operate under the premise that a good offense is the best defense.  I begin screaming back at husband,
"First of all, it's not YOUR lamb.  It's our lamb.  Secondly, I am one of the few wives we know who cooks every single night.  Thirdly, I try so hard to make you meals that are interesting and flavorful and I read cookbooks like other women read People Magazine.  You eat four things, roast lamb with roast potatoes, roast chicken with roast potatoes, shepherd's pie and bangers and mash and I am sick to death of those damn french-cut frozen green beans you like.  I try so hard.  I slave away for you.  You appreciate nothing I cook."  
 I was running out of steam and things to scream at this point so I closed with "And, if you think that dog likes you better, well, you're just  wrong, wrong wrong.  Get out of MY kitchen!!!!!"
Husband stomps out and I finish the lamb myself.  I make sure that I am sniffling very loudly and muttering to myself about how hard I try to please my husband even with my bad hands, how he has no palate for the finer things in life gastronomically-speaking and so on and so forth.  I start washing up the dishes, sniffling into the dishwater.  Husband slinks into the kitchen, turns me around, hugs me and makes this huge apology.  My husband seldom apologizes so this really was score one for the Gipper for me.  I squeezed a couple of more tears out (it took every ounce of my dramatic ability to do this) and forgave him. 
In reality, I could give two hoots if husband liked the recipe.  I wanted to try it and if he ate it, good for him.  If not, oh well, he could always make himself a cheese and Branston pickle sandwich.  It was the principle of him acting like he was in charge of that lamb that rankled me.  I am the chef and he's the sous chef and it's as simple as that.
I let the lamb sit in that marinade for two days in the refrigerator.  We were having a friend whose wife was out of town for dinner friday night.  I served the lamb.  I started with iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese and bacon bits.  We had zucchini and yellow squash sautee'd in a bit of oil, the onions grilled with the lamb and home-made peach cobbler (Yes! I am still using up those Costco peaches!)for dessert.  I did not make a starch.  Everything was so flavorful that it was unnecessary.  We didn't miss potatoes or rice.
Both husband and our guest raved about the lamb.  It was delicious and absolutely the most tender lamb I've ever eaten.  The lamb was not spicy.  The flavors were very very subtle.
Grilled Tandoori Lamb
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds ( I used coriander powder and upped it to 3 TBS)
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds (I used cumin powder and upped it to 3 TBS)
  • 3 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (I used French fleur de sel)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4-pound) boneless lamb shoulder, butterflied
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered with root end attached (I used 4)


 Toast the coriander and the cumin in a saute pan over medium heat until the spices become fragrant and just begin to smoke, 2 minutes. Set the spices aside to cool.


Combine the yogurt, lime, cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.


Poke the lamb several times with a fork (I made slits and hand rubbed the marinade in) and place in a large resealable plastic bag with the garlic and the onions and pour in the yogurt mixture. Move the lamb around in the bag to coat completely and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 4 to 6 hours.(I did the 2 days in the refrigerator and when I removed the lamb, there was very little marinade left in the bag.  The meat had absorbed most of it). 
Remove the lamb and the onions from the marinade and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Discard the marinade. Heat the grill to high, sear all sides of the lamb and adjust grill to indirect heat, about 350 degrees F. Grill the lamb for about 45 minutes per side for medium. When the lamb is cooked, remove it to a platter to rest for 15 minutes before cutting. **
** our grill is a big infared grill.  I turned on all four burners to start.  After searing the meat, I turned off the two center burners and had to turn the two remaining lit burners to medium-low to keep the grill temperatire at 350 degrees.  My lamb took 40 minutes (maybe a little less) per side.  It was a nice pink color in the middle and a bit more well done at the thinner ends.
Add the onions to the grill and cook until caramelized and tender, about 10 minutes. I did this while the meat rested.  Remove the onions from the grill and serve with the lamb.