No, nobody called Sikander is being chased by a screaming Bengali. In fact, its is the name of the new lamb recipe I attempted today.
Sikandari Raan (Marinated Whole Leg of Spring Lamb) is one of the signature lamb dishes of the Bukhara Restaurant in ITC Maurya. Though their Dal Bukhara (Creamy Black Lentil) and Murgh Malai Kebab (Creamy Chicken Kebab) are undoubtedly the most popular from their spread. Ask Clinton. No, not Hillary. The other one.
Like most of Bukhara’s dishes, Sikandari Raan is inspired by the traditions of the Northwestern frontier. Its the sheer scope and scale of this cuisine (essentially a mix of Afghan, Indian, Iranian, Pakistani, Central Asian and Middle Eastern) that makes it so inventive in its flavors.
Sikandari Raan is the sort of thing your kitchen can become famous for. And I am still craving for some fame. Maybe this time…
I traveled downtown to my butcher to get a leg of Spring Lamb. Supermarkets don’t do it for me, especially when I am making something so traditional. The leg of lamb I bought was about a kilo in weight. My butcher, a very affectionate lady at the Kensington Market suggested I take the front leg slash shoulder which has better marbling than the hind legs. She also cracked the bone at couple of places just so my marinade worked better. I knew she was right and let her.
At home, I scored the meat deep enough to reach the center bone from both sides. My butcher had already trimmed the extra fat.
So here I am now, introducing to you the ingredients and process of making Sikandari Raan!
1 leg of Spring Lamb (about one kilogram)
One and a half teaspoon ginger paste
One and a half teaspoon garlic paste
Juice of one lemon
Half cup white rum
Half cup vinegar
Half teaspoon mace (javitri) powder
One teaspoon black pepper powder
Half teaspoon cardamom powder
Two teaspoons red chili powder
Vegetable oil for basting
Make a dry rub with red chili powder, mace powder, black pepper powder and salt. Rub it all over the lamb making sure it reaches the insides through the scoring you have already done. Now mix the juice of one lemon and the ginger-garlic paste. With the back of a spoon or a butter knife, spread this mixture all over the lamb. Its important you do the dry rub first and then the wet marinade so that the flavors infuse better. I let the lamb marinate in my fridge overnight.
I don’t like drinking rum, but I’d definitely like to eat it. That’s one of the two more ingredients I added next to my marinating leg. Half cup of white rum and half cup of vinegar to drench the lamb. I let the lamb stand outside for four-five hours before it went in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cook the lamb for an hour turning at least two to three times. The Holy Grail for any barbequing or grilling is moisture. The rum and vinegar are the key ingredients which keep the meat from turning dry. Once you see that the liquids have cooked in the baking dish, baste the lamb with oil, and roast again for 30 minutes or till the meat is done.
You can sprinkle some chaat masala and serve the Sikandari Raan with onion rings and lemon wedges.
I love the way the recipe does not confuse or overpower the meat with too many spices. Its kept at a minimum on the ingredients quotient and maximum when it comes to taste!
I served the Sikandari Raan with some jalapeño peppers stuffed with feta cheese, a couple of butter-broiled corn on the cobs, and little heads of broccoli and carrot sticks with some spinach and chipotle dip.
As for my Sikander (its actually the Hindi name for Alexander the Great), he was already eyeing the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, while I treated myself with some chocolate-filled cannolis. And we both ate happily ever after…