Many many years ago, before we knew what nut allergies were, my mum used to make this lamb roast. She would use a bone-in leg of lamb – for best flavor, smothered in this wonderful paste that would form a crust on the roasted leg. Her choice was to grind up cashews and mix it with a blend of spices until it formed a thick paste. The meat was salted and peppered well and the wet marinade would be applied onto the surface of the meat, rubbed in well – my dad or I would have to do this, and cooked. She also studded the insides of the leg with cloves of garlic and dried red chillies. Oh my – it was good! That was over 30 years ago, but everyone in the family still speaks of her famous masala crusted lamb.

This Christmas my wife finally convinced me to try and make mum’s recipe for lamb roast. Really, it is much like any other type of crust that you roast with meat i.e. herb crusted beef tenderloin, but without the bread that accompanies most crusts. The exceptions were that I would use a boneless leg of lamb, and because of the nut allergies (the reason mum stopped making it) I wouldn’t use the cashews. I would say to her – but the kids aren’t eating this lamb, the adults are. Still she would have none of it around her nut allergic grand-kids.

Now as our family expanded, so did the number of allergies, with that in mind, this is the closest I can come to her recipe without the cashews. I did increase the quantity of garlic as I wasn’t planning on studding the meat with the cloves of garlic as she did. The feedback was “close”.  No, it wasn’t just the missing ground cashews – it will always be missing her masterful touch. But, when it comes to mum being my goal post, I will accept “close”. So try this full flavored lamb roast, not for the faint of heart. You can use bone in or boneless, whatever you like, just watch the cooking time by using a thermometer. As always – enjoy!

1 leg of lamb, boneless, approximately 5 lbs.
Salt and pepper

Masala mix
20 cloves of garlic – I used the Christopher Ranch peeled garlic from California – available at Longo’s
2 tbsp. Hungarian Paprika
1 tbsp. whole coriander
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp cayenne
7-10 dried red chillies
1” piece of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
¼ – ½ cup olive oil
Optional – 1 cup unsalted cashews

Make the masala
Remove the lamb from the fridge and set into a roasting pan, unroll the meat – this will help bring it to room temperature which will greatly assist in the cooking process – set aside
Toast the coriander, cumin and dried chillies in a small frying pan – 2-3 minutes
When fragrant pour into another container – the heat from the roasted spices may damage the inside parts of your processor if you go directly from pan to processor, let cool slightly and then pour into a food processor with the other ingredients –– garlic, ginger, paprika, and cayenne, (nuts if using) and pulse a few times to grind
Add the olive oil through the spout of your processor until a paste starts to form – grind as fine or coarse as you like, scraping down the processor between pulses – empty into a bowl and set aside
Taste and adjust seasoning of the masala as needed – add salt and pepper if necessary, some lemon juice, seasoned rice vinegar etc. Remember what I always say -make this tasty – do not put it on your meat if it is not tasty – it will not magically become tasty
Salt and pepper the lamb well – inside and out
Spread about 2-3 tbsp. of the masala mix inside the leg – rub well until it is coated with the masala
Roll the leg back into shape and tie it with butcher’s twine – no, do not use another type of string – go out and buy butcher’s twine
Place the leg into your baking dish and spread the rest of the masala onto the lamb forming a crust
Pour an additional 2 – 3 tbsp. olive oil over the coated lamb
Bake at 400f for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350f and cook until the internal temperature is in the 130f – 135f range – please don’t overcook lamb, no really – please don’t – this will be about 15 minutes per pound.  Use a timer and set it for the minimum amount of time, check the temperature and accordingly adjust your time
If the lamb is browning too quickly – cover loosely with foil and continue to bake
Note: I never, ever, never ever cook lamb without either an instant read thermometer at my access or the oven thermometer gadget attached to the meat.  Like chicken and pork, you want it cooked properly but not to the point where it is dry and tasteless
Remove from the oven and tent loosely with foil for 15 minutes or so
Before carving, carefully remove the strings replacing the crust where the string has pulled it off
Slice up only what is needed for the meal and bring the sliced and remaining lamb to the table
Drizzle with any pan juices and serve immediately – remember, lamb cooked to perfection waits for no one
In the picture below, I made a spicy and non-spicy version of the lamb roast, guess which one I was stuck with – I mean had leftovers with!