Rethinking spring lamb this season

Meera Sodha
Associated Press

Spring is an exciting time for food in the little farming village where I live in the northeast of England. Wild garlic and asparagus grow as high as the lambs bounce, daffodils tickle the playing fields and fresh optimism blows through the community as the days get longer and the farmers get busier.

We always have leg of lamb as our centerpiece with the season’s freshest greens to accompany it. Still, we can’t help but spice up our lamb a little with warming seasonings. In India, you’ll often hear meat described as “so good it melts in your mouth.” It’s the highest accolade that can be awarded to meat and cooking it slowly leaves it ridiculously soft without a quarrel.

This recipe is a beautiful alternative to a traditional roast lamb. It’s packed full of flavor for no more effort than usual; the dish takes just minutes to prep. It’s best served with fresh asparagus and peas, some pan-fried potatoes dressed in cumin, salt and butter, and yogurt with fresh mint and grated cucumber.

Indian-Spiced Easter Lamb

1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or 1 1/4 tablespoons ground cumin)

Two 2-inch cinnamon sticks (or 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon)

3/4 tablespoon kosher salt

2-inch chunk fresh ginger

6 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

5-pound leg of lamb

2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large-baking dish with foil.

Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind the cumin seeds and cinnamon until fine. In a food processor, combine the cumin-cinnamon mixture with the salt, ginger, garlic, garam masala, chili powder and canola oil. Blend until smooth.

Use a paring knife to cut deep slits into the lamb on all sides. Spread the seasoning paste over the lamb, using your hands to get it into all the nooks and crannies, including the slits. Set the lamb into the prepared pan and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pour the water around the outside of the lamb, then cover tightly with foil. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another hour.

Remove the lamb from the pan, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, carefully pour the liquid in the pan into small saucepan. Simmer until reduced by half. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cool water, then add to the simmering liquid. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Slice the lamb and serve with the thickened pan juices.

Per serving: 420 calories; 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 4 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 175 mg cholesterol; 940 mg sodium; 56 g protein; 1 g fiber.