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Recipes: 'An Invitation to Indian Cooking'

Madhur Jaffrey was recently inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame at the James Beard awards for her An Invitation to Indian Cooking. Bonny Wolf includes this title in her summer roundup of cookbooks.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Marinated and Barbecued

This recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking (Ecco 1999). Ask the butcher to butterfly an 8-9 pound leg of lamb. This involves boning the leg so the whole piece of meat lies flat, like a large, uneven steak. Jaffrey suggests using a Spanish or Indian orange food coloring to give the meat the look of traditional tandoori meats. I leave that out. This is wonderful for a summer barbecue. Serve with cucumber raita. (recipe follows). -- Bonny

Serves 10-12

1 8-9 pound leg of lamb, butterflied

2 medium-sized onions (1 coarsely chopped, 1 for garnish)

A piece of fresh ginger, 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, peeled and coarsely chopped

5-7 cloves garlic (depending on preference), peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice lemon juice

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala*

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional and depending on preference)


12 radishes

Put the chopped onion, ginger, garlic and 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice in the container of a food processor or blender and blend until you have a smooth paste.

In a bowl or pot with non-metallic lining large enough to hold the meat, put the blended paste and all the other ingredients except the meat and the onion and radishes to be used for garnishing. Mix well.

Carefully cut off all fat and tissue from the meat, and with the point of a knife make lots of jabs in it on both sides. Put the meat in the marinade paste. Fold the meat over, or cut it into 2 pieces, if there is not room. Make a few more jabs with the knife, and be sure the paste gets rubbed into the meat and goes way inside the gashes. Cover the container and leave refrigerated for 24 hours. Turn the meat over at least 3 or 4 times during this period.

The meat is now ready for grilling. Before you start, get your garnishes ready.

Peel the second onion and slice it into very fine rounds (paper-thin if possible). Separate the rounds into rings and put them into a bowl of ice water, cover and refrigerate.

Cut off the stems, leaves and tips from the radishes and then cut them into flowers. (Starting form the tip end, start cutting into halves, but stop short as you reach the stem end. Next, cut into quarters and eights the same way.) Put into a small bowl of ice water, cover and refrigerate. It will look prettier if you use unblemished radishes of approximately the same size.

Now light your fire. If it takes 20 to 30 minutes to get red hot, start about 1 hour and 15 minutes before you intend to eat. When hot, place the metal grill at the lowest notch.

Lift meat from bowl (leaving marinade) and place on grill. Sear 5-8 minutes on each side. Now raise the grill to its topmost notch and cook about 20 minutes on each side. Brush frequently with the marinade until it is all used up. If you don’t have a grill that moves up and down, just remember that the meat needs to cook about 50 minutes and it should be very dark on the outside and pinkish inside. Most Indians like their meat well done; you may prefer it a bit rare, but don’t cook it too rare, as the spices inside won’t get a chance to cook through.

To serve, warm a large platter. Meanwhile, place the meat on a carving board and, using a very sharp knife, cut it into thin slices as fast as you can. You don’t want the meat to cool off too much. Slide the meat pieces onto the warm platter. Drain the radishes and onion rings. Arrange the radishes around the meat and lay the onion rings on top.

Serve immediately.

*Garam masala is a mixture of several spices generally prepared ahead of time in small quantities and used as needed to flavor meats and vegetables. It can be bought prepared in some specialty stores. It will taste fresher if you grind it yourself. If I’m in a hurry or can’t find them whole I’ve made a mixture of ground spices. To make 3 tablespoons:

1 tablespoon cardamom seeds

1 2-inch stick cinnamon

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1/4 of an average-sized nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and grind very fine, in a spice grinder or coffee grinder reserved for spices. If you want it less hot, decrease the amount of black peppercorns and increase the cumin proportionately.) Store in a tightly covered container, away from sunlight and dampness. If carefully stored, this garam masala can be kept for a couple of months.

Cucumber Raita

This is refreshing, cool yogurt and cucumber relish is adapted from An Invitation to Indian Cooking. In the hot summer months, it takes the place of a salad. -- Bonny

Serves 4-6

1 cucumber

15 ounces plain yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon roasted, ground cumin seeds*

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/8 teaspoon paprika, for garnish

Peel and grate the cucumber.

Empty the yogurt into serving bowl and beat it well with a fork until it is smooth and paste-like.

Add the cucumber, salt, black pepper, roasted cumin (reserve a pinch for garnish) and cayenne to the bowl with the yogurt.

Sprinkle with paprika and the pinch of roasted cumin. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, bring bowl of cold yogurt to the table. This relish goes well with nearly all Indian meals.

*To roast cumin, place desired amount of whole seeds in heavy frying pan (cast iron is best) over a medium flame. Stir 2 or 3 minutes or until seeds turn a darker brown. Remove from heat and crushed with a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. It is best when freshly roasted, but you could keep it a few days in a tightly covered jar.

Excerpted from An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. Copyright © 2006, Madhur Jaffrey. Reprinted with permission from Ecco, a division of Harper Collins. All rights reserved.

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Madhur Jaffrey