Raan (whole braised leg of lamb with peppercorn and nutmeg)
This has to be the ultimate celebration dish to put on the menu for any feast laid out at Eid. A proper centrepiece, it’s also very simple as far as the number of ingredients go, making it an absolute must-try. It’s traditional to use leg of lamb, but the dish tastes just as good if you use shoulder.
1 leg of lamb, approx 1.8kg (or if using spring lamb, use 2 shoulders)
3 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 green or black cardamom pods
1 tablespoon butter
20g spring onion greens, thinly sliced
For the marinade
4 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (see below)
1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
2 teaspoons salt
200ml malt vinegar
100g crisp fried onions
1 teaspoon sugar
For the sauce
200ml tomato purée
1½ tablespoons black peppercorns, roasted in a dry frying pan for 30-60 seconds, then coarsely crushed
¼ nutmeg, grated
60ml single cream
sugar, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
30ml rum (optional)
Remove the surface fat from the leg or shoulder of lamb and prick the leg thoroughly using the tip of a sharp knife or a trussing needle (you can ask your butcher to do this for you, if you wish).
Mix all the marinade ingredients together into a paste. Spread the paste all over the lamb and massage the spices in. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably for a few hours in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C Fan/Gas Mark 2.
Scatter the whole spices in a deep baking tray large enough to accommodate the leg, then place the marinated lamb on top. Pour over enough water to come three-quarters of the way up the lamb. Cover with foil and cook in the preheated oven for 2½-3 hours until the meat is soft and easily comes off the bone. Remove from the oven and let the leg cool, then drain and reserve the cooking liquor.
Once cool, make deep incisions into the leg and remove the meat from the bone. Cut the meat into 1cm thick slices and arrange on an ovenproof serving platter. Brush with the butter and heat in a warm oven; hold warm until ready to serve.
For the sauce, transfer the strained cooking juices to a pan, add the tomato purée and cook down slowly to a sauce consistency. Add the peppercorns, nutmeg and cream. Check the seasoning and add salt and sugar to taste. Whisk in the butter, remove from the heat and pour over the sliced raan. Sprinkle with spring onions. If using rum, pour it into a ladle and heat until flaming, then pour over the lamb and bring to the table as the show-stopper.
Kaddu ki subzi (pumpkin and coconut curry)
This is a very simple curry featuring coconut, curry leaves and chilli. You can make it as wet or dry as you like, depending upon your taste. During Navratri in India, which is usually in the autumn, this is one of several vegetarian dishes that people reach out for to make it through the nine days of abstinence and fasting. In the UK, too, as autumn sets in and pumpkin is plentiful, the spices and coconut combine to make a delightful comfort meal.
1kg pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and seeds discarded, diced into 4cm cubes
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
2 green chillies, slit lengthways
15 curry leaves
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
8-10 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
200ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
Place the pumpkin in a pot with the cinnamon stick, green chillies, 10 curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, sugar, salt, red chilli powder and 400ml of water. Bring to the boil, then cook, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes until the pumpkin becomes tender, but not mushy. You should be able to pierce the pumpkin with the tip of a knife or skewer, but it should not fall apart.
Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, grind together the mustard seeds, peppercorns and two tablespoons of the desiccated coconut with the coconut milk. Pour this into the boiled pumpkin and allow it to simmer for a few minutes until the gravy thickens slightly. Taste for salt and turn off the heat.
In a separate small frying pan, heat the oil until smoking, then add the remaining curry leaves. As they turn crisp after about 30 seconds or so, add the chopped onion and fry for 3-4 minutes on a high heat until they turn pink. Add the remaining desiccated coconut and fry until crisp and golden in colour. Sprinkle on top of your curry as a garnish and serve with rice.
This is yet another example of playing the hits – a balchao appears at several celebrations, including weddings and at Easter. Although traditionally this is a pickle, meant to be enjoyed for days after it’s been made, it tastes just as delicious fresh and hot. As a celebration dish or even cooked simply on a barbecue, this is and will always be a show-stopper.
You may find the portions slightly small for a main course on its own, but the dish works well served along with a few others and on its own may be a bit too spicy and full-on for a balanced meal. Try to combine with a mild and saucy curry.
4 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
3 red onions, finely chopped
10 fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (see below)
3 green chillies, chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
15-18 large king prawns, head on, slit open and left on the shell
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
For the spice mix
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, dry roasted in a pan
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
For the spice mix, mix together the roasted cumin seeds, peppercorns and red chilli powder in a food processor until fine.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and curry leaves and stir over a medium heat until golden brown. Add the ginger-garlic paste and green chillies and stir for one minute. Add the turmeric, followed by the spice mix and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the spices are cooked. Add the salt, sugar and malt vinegar and continue cooking until the oil separates (less than five minutes).
Remove and cool the mixture. If making for later, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
If using immediately, smear the cooked paste on to the king prawns on the flesh side and marinate for 20 minutes while you get your grill or barbecue hot. Simply cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, and serve immediately squeezed with lime and sprinkled with coriander.
Use this in the prawn balacho and the raan marinade. This recipe makes about 10 tablespoons.
100g fresh ginger, peeled
100g garlic, peeled
Chop up the ginger and garlic and process them to a paste with the water in a food processor or blender. The paste will keep for one week in the fridge.
Extract taken from Vivek Singh’s Indian Festival Feasts (Absolute Press, £26) . Photography © Jodi Hinds
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