The wedding was large and lavish, and the aroma of lamb leg cooking somewhere at a distance far from the wedding venue stirred up emotions that were better left buried. She saw large platters of rice, raisin and pomegranate stuffed raan, marinated in masala, and being carried from the kitchens to the royal table. The alluring fragrance of saffron played heady on her senses and transferred her to a time when the only sweetness in the air was not of the raisins plumped inside the cooking lamb, but also of the sounds of her royal wedding. She remembered the texture of the lamb, infused with the aroma of the pomegranate, melting in her mouth, and the effervescent lamb pulao almost forgotten.
In my younger days, before I hit double digits, the above is how I imagined raan roast was eaten by royalty, in the days when the Mughals ruled the subcontinent. But then, somewhere in the ’70s in the month of October, came Baqr Eid (Eidul Azha) celebrations and everything changed — for the better — because I realised that commoners eat raan too. I was five or six and listened with fascination as my father relayed the glorious history that marks the blessed event we celebrated a few days ago. I vividly remember going with my father and buying a goat for 700 rupees, a beautiful, tall, muscular animal that was to be pampered until the morning of the qurbani (sacrifice), and then enjoyed as a delicious family lunch.
Raan roast is said to be a dish of the royals but, historically speaking, lamb and goat meat (mutton) has always been a favourite meat of South Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. Maybe it was the availability of the animal or its size that made it an animal of choice to be hunted as quick and easy dinner, or the fact that goat and lamb meat is the most deliciously tender and juicy meat, but I am biased since mutton happens to be my preferred meat of choice.
Check out this gourmet recipe for whole leg of lamb or goat marinated in a delicious blend of aromatic spices
It is believed that the ruling Mughals’ hearty appetite for beef, lamb and goat clashed with the dietary habits of many of their subjects in the subcontinent. But the mountain people of Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were used to the hearty meat-based diet of the nomadic shepherds of the region. The warrior nature of the Pakhtuns and others in the mountainous region emphasised the consumption of the undomesticated animal, and vegetarianism was considered the diet of the people of the plains.
Raan roast is lavish and decorative, elegant and fabulous all at once. It is marinated and cooked, preferably in animal fat. The fresh meat is thought to provide the fat base for cooking, and it is meant to be savoured and enjoyed with hot naan.
My favourite every Eidul Azha was the raan roast we would be served the second day of Eid. Here is the recipe, celebrating the cooking of raan roast from my kitchen to yours.
7 lbs to 9 lbs goat leg
6 large tomatoes
1-2 red onions
4 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic
Crushed red pepper according to taste
Salt to taste
8 crushed green chilies
2 teaspoon Kashmiri mirch powder
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 packet pre-packaged, store-bought dry barbecue masala, tikka masala, korma masala, whichever is easily accessible
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon turmeric
Wash the goat leg thoroughly, make deep cuts and set aside.
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Taste to ensure that the flavour is according to taste — the flavour of the marinade is what the taste of the gravy will be like. Rub marinade onto the goat leg, massaging it well and ensuring that the marinade has penetrated into the cuts on the goat leg. Cover and marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 36 hours. Preheat oven at 450 degrees, pour two to three cups of beef stock onto the goat leg, for moisture, seal with foil and bake for an hour and a half.
Remove pan from the oven, and add the sliced red onion rings, sliced green chilies, six large tomatoes cut in fours and garlic cloves. Set oven temperature at 400 degrees and bake for another two hours.
Important note: check every 30 minutes for tenderness and appearance of the goat leg. Once the meat starts separating from the bone, the leg is done. Serve as a centrepiece at your dinner party; it’s a sure-shot hit
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 2nd, 2018