Lucknow leg of lamb

Lucknavi raan, or sikandri raan, is a great dish for entertaining. Cooked properly and carefully it will have a consistency like pulled lamb and 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 dish is a family favourite for a special or festive occasion. It is spectacular if you spend some effort with the presentation. By reputation this dish originates from the time of Alexander the Great.

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 which is a feature of dishes from this region. Green papaya contains papayin, a natural meat tenderiser.

The second overnight marination is the part that imparts the flavour.  You can increase this time to allow a deeper development of the flavours. As described, the second overnight marination is about 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. The majority 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

preparation:30 mins
cook:6 hrs 20 mins
marinate:1 d
total:6 hrs 50 mins
servings:4 servings
calories:380 kcal


  • 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

to serve


first marination

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

second marination

  • Roast whole spices for the second marinade in a hot pan until aromatic. Set aside. Roast almonds until light brown, allow to cool, and then add to whole spices. Grind to a fine powder.
  • In a small frypan, roast besan, stirring continually until it becomes a pale brown in colour. Add to ground spices with the salt, and mix well.
  • Remove meat from refrigerator, and 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 refrigerateat least overnight

to cook

  • Remove lamb from refrigerator and allow to come up to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 230C.
  • Place onions and garlic in the bottom of a pan just large enough to hold the lamb leg. Place lamb fat side down onto the onions and garlic, then carefully add water to pan without washing the spices from the meat.
  • Place into oven, uncovered, and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Reduce oven to 140C. Remove lamb from oven, and turn over. Baste well. Cover and return to oven for a further five hours, turning and basting every 30 minutes.
  • After this time, increase oven to 175C. Uncover the pan, turn lamb fat side down, place on top shelf of the oven and cook for a further 45 minutes, basting the meat with the juices every 15 minutes. If necessary, add a little water to stop the meat and sauces drying out.
  • Lamb should now be falling apart. Carefully remove lamb from pan and arrange on a platter. Cover, and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Place pan on stovetop on a high heat, and cook for five minutes stirring continuously to reduce the juices to a thick consistency.

to serve

  • Pour half sauce over meat. Put the rest of the sauce in a bowl at the side of the meat. Put small mounds of garam masala, salt and kashmiri chiili powder beside 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.
  • Removing the cooked lamb from the roasting pan needs care, or it may fall apart. Use a large, flat spatula, and large tongs.
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