Ottoman Baked Lamb


My version of an Ottoman palace favourite, hünkâr beğendi, which is braised lamb served on a pile of hot aubergine purée thickened with cheese and bechamel. Here the large leg of lamb is tenderised in a yogurt marinade then baked rather than roasted, although it should take on a nice brown tomato-flavoured crust in the last 45 minutes of cooking. By itself it is good served with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.

However rude and rustic this dish, I have a lingering affection for it because it was part of the menu that won me joint first prize in The Guardian/Mouton Cadet cookery competition 1982. Ask the butcher to remove the bones from the lamb if you feel daunted by them.


  • ½ pint yoghurt
  • 4 heaped tablespoons tomato purée
  • 8 tablespoons rough red wine
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic – peeled and minced
  • 2 dry bay leaves – crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 lb leg of lamb – trimmed of all fat and the two complicated bones at the body end removed


Beat yoghurt with tomato purée. Still beating, dribble in the wine and oil. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper.

Make deep incisions all over the leg of lamb. Put in marinade. If you don’t have a pottery, glass or stainless steel bowl large enough, use a washed plastic bag without any holes or a bucket. Cover and leave in fridge for 24 hours. Turn occasionally.

Take out of marinade (don’t bother to shake off excess) and place in roasting pan. Cover with foil and put in pre-heated oven at Gas 6/200°C/400°F for 1¾ hours.

Take out of oven, pour off juices from tin and keep for later. Remove foil, take leg out of tin and put back in the oven straight on the bare shelf, with the tin on shelf below to catch dripping juices. Cook for another 45 minutes.

Remove lamb from oven, cover once more with foil and leave to stand in a warm place for 20 minutes before carving. Strain drips from tin together with those kept from the first period of baking and reduce down in a small saucepan to almost nothing.

Carve leg in thick slices and arrange on serving platter, on top of a flat bed of the aubergine purée, if you are using it. Spoon the reduced roasting juices over.