Leg of Lamb with an Onion-Coconut Sauce

Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

660 Curries

By Raghavan Iyer

Published 2008

  • About

I love combining regional tastes. The flavors in this nut-studded roast are characteristic of northern India’s Moghul cuisine, while its sauce is typical of the East Indian community in Mumbai, where seafood, not meat, is the dietary staple. Even though I have used lamb, a beef roast would be perfectly acceptable and would have the same cooking time.


For the lamb

  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb (2½ to 3 pounds), preferably the loin portion
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup slivered blanched almonds
  • ¼ cup raw cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup raw shelled pistachio nuts
  • 2 tablespoons Ginger Paste
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground Kashmiri chiles; or ½ teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper) mixed with teaspoons sweet paprika
  • teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • Vegetable cooking spray


  1. To prepare the lamb, make four to six ¼-inch-deep gashes, well spaced, in the meat. Set the roast in a shallow baking pan.
  2. Pour the yogurt into a blender jar, followed by the almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a slightly gritty, light green sauce. Make sure all the nuts are pulverized. Pour the sauce into a small bowl, and stir in the ginger and garlic pastes, ground chiles, and salt.
  3. Pour this marinade over the lamb, and using your hands, massage it into the meat; make sure you get it into the gashes. Cover the roast with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight, to allow the yogurt to tenderize the lamb and the spices to permeate the meat.
  4. When you are ready to cook the lamb, 425°F. While the oven is preheating, bring the lamb to room temperature by setting the baking pan on the kitchen counter (I usually place it close to the warming oven to quicken the process).
  5. Set a rack in a roasting pan, and spray the rack with cooking spray. Place the lamb on the rack, including any marinade that clings to its surface. (Reserve the remaining marinade for basting.) Place the pan in the oven and roast until the lamb is seared and lightly browned on the outside, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F, and continue to roast the lamb for another 15 minutes or so. Then spread the reserved marinade over it. Continue to roast the lamb until the meat registers around 135°F (for medium-rare) when you insert a meat thermometer into its thickest part, about 1 hour. While it is roasting, occasionally check the pan to see if the meat drippings are starting to burn off. If they are, pour a little water into the pan to allow for some moisture, which will maintain the meat’s succulence without diluting its flavors.
  7. While the lamb is roasting, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and stir-fry until the onion is caramel-brown with a deep purple hue, 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Stir in the tomato paste, bottle masala, and salt, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until a thin film starts to form on the bottom and the paste acquires an oily sheen on its surface, 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Pour in ¼ cup water and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it, releasing the browned bits of sauce, onion, and spices. Stir in the coconut milk. Once the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and continue to boil rather vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced by almost half and thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Keep the sauce warm, covered, over very low heat.
  10. When the lamb is done, remove the baking pan from the oven and let it rest on the counter for about 10 minutes. The meat’s internal temperature will rise about 5 degrees.
  11. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board. Cut the meat into ½-inch-thick slices and arrange them on a serving platter.
  12. Stir the cilantro into the sauce. Serve the lamb and sauce separately, allowing the diners to spoon on as much sauce as they wish.