Lucknow leg of lamb

Lucknavi raan, or sikandari raan, is a great dish for entertaining. Cooked properly and carefully, the leg of lamb will fall off the bone and have a delicate taste that enhances the flavour of the meat.

If you only cook one dish from this cookbook, this would be my recommendation. This is a family favourite for a special or festive occasion. It is spectacular if you spend some effort with the presentation.

This dish originates in Arab and Persian cuisine and comes from the time of Alexander the Great. The term sikandar refers to Alexander. It became part of the Awadhi cuisine with the arrival of the Mughals.

It is not a particularly hard dish to prepare. The most important thing is to take your time. The first overnight marination will give that soft texture that is a feature of dishes from this region. Green papaya contains papayin, a natural meat tenderiser.

The second overnight marination is the one that gives the flavour.  You can increase this time to several days to allow a deeper development of the flavours. As described, the second overnight marination time of overnight is the minimum required.

The slow cooking allows all the work you have done to come together without drying out the meat and giving it that special flavour and texture.

You cannot substitute ingredients. Using beef, pork or poultry just does not suit this dish. Most of the spices are common, and the unusual ones, such as mace or the toasted besan are vital to the dish.

Simply put; to be successful with this dish do not take shortcuts. Believe me you will be rewarded.

A good butcher is your friend for this recipe. You need to ask for a butterflied leg of lamb, with the shank left in. I have attempted this dish with a whole leg, but the results are not the same. You need a large surface area of meat for the marinades to work effectively. I calculate the required piece of meat at 250g per person, 200g in weight loss through cooking, and around 350g wastage from the bone. As described below, I am using a 1.5kg leg to feed four people as the main course. Use this formula to scale the recipe for larger serving needs. Scale the spices in the second marinade to match, but you don’t need to scale the first marinade because much of that is discarded.

Because of the two marination periods, you will need to start this dish several days in advance. The recipe calls for two overnight marination periods, but it is improved by marinating longer. It does not improve by eating the day after. You develop the flavours before and during cooking, not after.

The best accompaniments for this dish are parathas with some simple raitas or salads. This dish would be the feature of the meal, so don’t complicate things.

the recipe

print review


  • roasting pan with lid


  • 1.5 kg lamb leg - butterflied and shank in

first marinade

  • ½ green papaya
  • 150 ml yoghurt

second marinade

to cook

  • 1 red onion - very finely sliced into rings
  • 6 cloves garlic - very finely sliced
  • 375 ml water
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour - (besan)

to serve


first marination

  • Blend papaya flesh and yoghurt into a paste. Cut gashes into the meat and work the paste into the surface of the meat. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

second marination

  • Roast the whole spices for the second marinade in a hot pan until aromatic. Set aside. Roast the almonds until light brown, allow to cool, and then add to whole spices. Grind to a fine powder.
  • In a small frypan, roast the besan, stirring continually until it becomes a pale brown in colour. Allow to cool, then add to the ground spices. Add the salt and mix well.
  • Remove the meat from the refrigerator, and gently remove any excess papaya and yoghurt marinade.
  • Pour spices over both sides of the meat, and work well into the surface and gashes. Put any excess into the middle of the meat with the ghee. Roll the butterflied leg, and use kitchen twine to tie the leg back into its original shape. Cover, and refrigerate overnight or longer.

to cook

  • Remove lamb from refrigerator and allow to come up to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven in conventional mode (ie no fan) to 170 °C
  • Place the onions and garlic in the bottom of a roasting pan just large enough to hold the lamb leg. Place lamb fat side up onto the onions and garlic, then carefully add the water to the pan without washing the spices from the meat.
  • Cover the dish then place into the oven and cook for three and a half hours. Baste the meat with pan juices every 30 minutes.
  • After this time, remove the lamb from the oven and increase the oven heat by turning on the fan, if it has one, or raise the temperature to 190 °C.
  • Turn the lamb over very carefully. Place the pan on the top shelf of the oven, uncovered, and cook for a further 20 minutes, basting the meat with the juices every 5 minutes. This should give the lamb a dark crust.
  • Carefully remove the lamb from the pan and arrange it on a platter. Cover, and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Place the roasting pan on the stovetop on medium high heat Sprinkle the chickpea flour into the juices and mix well. Cook for five minutes stirring continuously to make a thick gravy.

to serve

  • Pour half of the gravy over the meat. Put the rest in a bowl at the side of the meat. Put small mounds of garam masala, salt, and Kashmiri chilli powder beside the dish for the guests. Sprinkle with coriander and crushed papadom and serve.


  • This recipe is improved by increasing the time allowed for the second marination where the spices are used. You may consider marinating for several days.
  • Turning and removing the cooked lamb from the roasting pan needs care, or it may fall apart. Use a large, flat spatula, and large tongs.

private notes

This feature is only available to subscribers.


Serving: 250 g | Calories: 491 kcal | Carbohydrates: 20 g | Protein: 53 g | Fat: 22 g | Saturated Fat: 10 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8 g | Cholesterol: 176 mg | Sodium: 778 mg | Potassium: 1053 mg | Fiber: 5 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 982 IU | Vitamin C: 29 mg | Vitamin D: 0.04 µg | Calcium: 138 mg | Iron: 7 mg

2 thoughts on “Lucknow leg of lamb”

  1. Amazing recipe! It’s a showstopper. Couple of things I changed though – 1. I swapped star anise for nutmeg because I had none at home. 2. I had to manage with one day of marinating as my mutton arrived only the day before. My Mutton Raan got cooked in 3 hours instead of five. I was hesitant because there was no room for mistakes but your notes were so detailed and I decided to take the plunge! I’m glad!5 stars


make a comment

All comments are moderated according to our comments policy.

Your email address is not disclosed to other users.

your rating