I came across a Persian recipe for lamb with cardamom and yoghurt a few years ago in Paul Gayler’s book Flavours which sounded wonderful – I eagerly folded the corner of the page down, put it back on the shelf and completely forgot about it…until this week. Better late than never!
My brother came round for dinner yesterday so it was the perfect excuse to add this twist to a traditional roast. We are cardamom people (I made my brother a cardamom cake for his birthday this year and my dad sometimes chews the pods like chewing gum – odd but tasty) but if you are new to the spice, I would really recommend this dish as a gentle introduction to one of the most important spices of Southern Asia and the Middle East. Cardamom is often used in complex spice mixes but here it proudly takes centre stage.
The cardamom and lemon yoghurt really are cracking additions to the roast lamb. The cardamom is fragrant and warm and has a citrus note to it that marries perfectly with the lemon; the yoghurt adds a beautiful creaminess which softens the acidity of the lemon and helps to tenderise the meat.
A confession: We were hungry and greedy and roasted the lamb for a little less time on a slightly higher heat than stated below – if you are in a hurry this does work but I would urge you to be patient and slow cook the meat for a melt-in-the-mouth texture. All good things come to those who wait (so not me)!
Roast lamb with cardamom & lemon yoghurt crust
– 750g shoulder of lamb, boned and rolled
– 3 garlic cloves, quartered into strips
– 2 teaspoons cardamom pods
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the lemon yoghurt:
– 1 lemon (juice of 1 and zest of 1/2)
– 150g Greek yoghurt
– 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
Make small slits in the lamb with a sharp knife and poke in the garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crush the cardamom pods, extract the seeds and sprinkle over the lamb. Drizzle with olive oil, rub into the lamb and leave to marinate for at least 5 hours at room temperature.
Tip: Make sure that the rolled shoulder is trussed with string and not netting – if it’s netting, the crust will form on the netting and not the lamb itself (painfully obvious perhaps but you live and learn)…
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
In a roasting tin on a medium-high heat, brown the lamb on all sides. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes to brown further.
Remove the lamb and lower the oven to 150°C. Combine the ingredients for the lemon yoghurt in a bowl and pour half over the lamb. Return to the oven, pouring the remaining yoghurt over the lamb at half-hourly intervals, for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until tender and the yoghurt has formed a crust. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Remove the trussing, slice thickly and serve with mashed potato (to soak up all the goodness); pour over the remaining sauce.
Source: Adapted from recipe in Flavours; photos by pip & little blue.