Food Talk
Lambís tales

Whether a starter kebab or the main dish, the raan is in a class by itself, writes Pushpesh Pant

Princely raan

Kid/lamb whole leg 1 kg
Ghee 100 gm
Curd 75 ml
Onions 100 gm
Red chillies 10 gm
Coriander powder 10 gm
Cumin seeds powder 5 gm
Peppercorns 10 gm

10 gm
Ginger powder dried 30 gm
Papaya (raw and dried) 30 gm
Cinnamon 2inch piece (broken)
Cloves 12

Clean the meat well removing all fat: tendons and membranes. Prick the leg thoroughly and deep down to the bone. Make a few cuts and stuff them with cinnamon and cloves.

Slice the onions finely and fry them in ghee till golden brown and then ground to a paste. Mix the ingredients except the onion paste and rub gently all over the leg ensuring that the marinate seeps in. Marinate the raan for 5-6 hours.

Heat the ghee in a wide pan, place the leg in it with the marinade, cover and cook in medium-low heat till tender. The leg will have to be turned from time to time and basted with small spoonfuls of ghee. You may, if you like, bake the raan in a moderate oven (300 to 350 F). Serve the raan with piyaaz ka laccha and pudiney ki chutney.

Love, as the old song has it, is a many splendoured thing. So, we daresay, is the leg of lamb. It comes donning many garbs assuming dozens of alluring names.

At times, it appears as Raan Sikandari commemorating the great Greek, while at other times it pays tributes to the Grand Mughal and becomes Akbari Raan. In Awadh, it is pot-roasted and served intact, yes, as a delectable musallam draped in a rich nutty paste.

Raan Bukhara is in a class by itself and has contributed as much to the legendary restaurantís reputation as the daal synonymous with the eatery. Gourmet and glutton alike have tried in vain to solve the mystery as to what imparts such succulence to this delectable roast from the tandoor?

Chefs insist that nothing as vulgar as vinegar is allowed to enter the "regal baths". The peerless tenderising is accomplished by papaya lovingly massaging the body beautiful of its beloved rendering it a tempting dish fit enough to be devoured as much with the eyes as tasted with the tongue.

The best raans that we have savoured are those brought after Eid by our friend Wahid Miyan from Gorakhpur ó aromatic, subtly spiced and none the worse for the overnight train journey. Even when the stomach is protesting, the palate keeps asking for more. A well-made raan is enough to convince anyone that purest and healthiest white flesh fish or fowl cannot compare with this shade of red. Take our advice ó donít keep drooling and deny yourself this blissful bite just make it small.

The raan can be served as a starter kebab shared by a dozen guests or it can be the celebratory main course, piece de resistance, the jewel in the crown of any festive dastarkhwan. It can also make a sumptuous no-hassles meal for many supplemented with just a daal and green salad.

You can dig into the hunk of red meat a la barbarian, tearing and chewing loudly without any inhibitions recalling the impromptu barbeques after a prehistoric hunt or wield the knives and forks elegantly enjoying each morsel at a formal sit down. The raan, indeed, is a prince that retains its common touch.

The raan may look intimidating to the novice cook but, in fact, is one of the easier delicacies to master. The preparation time is long but the actual cooking is not long or tedious, nor does it require constant monitoring that the sublime gravies demand. What is more, the leftovers can provide an exotic filing for sandwiches and wraps.