This Persian Roast Lamb is one of my favourite ways to cook lamb, a very easy, straightforward marinade using some basic Persian and Western ingredients and voilà – you’ve got yourself, a juicy, aromatic and delightful roast with a touch of the exotic!
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
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Roast Lamb for Any Occasion
A roast of any kind always makes a great table centrepiece, whether it’s dressed to impress or straight out of the oven without a care in the world.
Today’s roasted leg of lamb is a favourite with my Middle Eastern customers here in the UK as well as readers in Iran. So that’s saying something, right?
The customers are long standing ones and twice a year, regular as clockwork, I can expect them knocking on my door to discuss the next Persian dinner and menu.
What makes this Persian Roast Lamb so Special?
In one word (erm, 2 really) – Pomegranate Molasses.
Pomegranate Molasses is a heavenly ingredient that adds tangy and slightly sweet flavours to whatever you use it in. To me, it’s a cross between a mild honey and balsamic vinegar; that’s the closest comparison I can give you!
However, go on ahead to the page on Pomegranate Molasses to read more about it. I also give you a diy pomegranate molasses recipe.
It is easily available here in the UK from our large supermarkets like Waitrose, Sainsburys and Ocado. Or try your hand online, if you can’t find it wherever you are. Here is my affiliate link for getting it on Amazon.
The pomegranate gives a beautiful and delicious glaze to our roast. It adds depth with all its touches of tart, sweet, caramel coming into play. These flavours are heightened by the other ingredients that we have, like saffron, lemon, turmeric, pepper, cumin and some honey. Sounding good to you?
On a side note, as you can see in the images here, I finish the recipe of with sprinkling some pomegranate seeds, my go-to food photography bling. Not everyone likes crunching on them, so just be aware of that.
As mentioned, our Persian Roast Lamb is very easy to cook. This is what we’ll be doing:
- Make the marinade.
- Make cuts/slits in the lamb leg with a small, sharp knife.
- Rub the marinade all over and in the cuts (marinate for as long as you can).
- Roast the lamb for 1 1/2 hrs.
There is no need to marinate the lamb at all if you don’t have time but if you do, leave it in the marinade for a couple of hours, even overnight, if you are that organised! We cut some slashes into the meat to allow the marinade to penetrate through and get soaked up by the meat fibres for a better all round flavour.
My favourite cut for this recipe and other roast lamb recipes is leg of lamb. It produces plenty of meat and how well you want to cook it is completely up to you.
A whole leg of lamb is great for a crowd as it yields plenty of lean meat.
Lamb shoulder is also another great cut to make today’s Persian Roast Lamb.
Liquid Saffron (or Bloomed Saffron)
Liquid Saffron is an indispensable kitchen ingredient in the Persian kitchen, but perfect for all cuisines – this is liquid gold!
When you only soak the saffron in water (as called for in most cuisines), you are not utilising everything that this potent ingredient has to offer. You get the aroma, the flavour and the colour but the very substance of the saffron, to me, remains elusive when you leave it whole.
To get liquid saffron, we crush the saffron in a pestle and mortar first, with just a tiny pinch of salt or sugar to aid the grinding, then we soak it in about 2 Tbsp of hot water (or more, depending on the recipe).
I show you how to do it in the video.
Adding stock to our roast allows for a delicious sauce to accompany the lamb and whatever you’re serving it with.
I find lamb stock overpowering, so always go for chicken stock when I’m cooking with lamb, for a subtle flavour addition. This is a matter of choice, and you can always just use water but the result won’t be as potent.
With certain dishes, I can be a bit of a traditionalist. So, I’m sticking with just onions in this recipe, more for flavouring and adding body to the finished sauce at the end of cooking time. You could go the usual way by adding some carrots and celery if you like.
One Pot Dish
Or, turn this into a one pot dish by adding vegetables as mentioned above and par boiled potatoes in the last hour of cooking time. Or roast your potatoes separately.
Take a look at this Slow Roast Lamb Shanks on what I mean by turning this roast into a one pot meal.
We have a handful of ingredients here that add flavour to our Persian Roast Lamb, namely the pomegranate molasses, garlic, saffron, cumin, turmeric, lemon juice and rosemary.
I think that’s plenty. However, if you’d like a little more, you could perhaps use thyme instead of rosemary and as mint is a natural accompaniment to lamb, that’s always good to.
I’d just stick with what we have above, although 1/4 tsp sumac will blend in very nicely with its lemony inclinations.
You could also use lime juice instead of lemon.
How to serve our Persian Roast Lamb?
This rather depends on the type of meal you’re having. Take a look at the suggestions below for Middle eastern inspiration.
When I cook this for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, I keep it all Persian or with North African/Middle Eastern accompaniments. I do the same if my guests or customers are from that part of the world.
Morasa Polo, Persian Jewelled Rice, is just perfect for this, with its “twinkling gems”. Or the more traditional Nowruz rice dish of Sabzi Polo (Herbed Rice).
Or, keep it simple with my specially written Easy Persian Saffron Rice.
Then to complete the meal, you can have a borani (yoghurt dish) and a salad. Perfect.
This Persian Roast Lamb makes a wonderful Easter main on Easter Sunday, something I’ve done a few times over the years, as it’s always a huge hit. It also makes a wonderful Christmas main meal if you’re not a fan of turkey.
Accompaniments for Persian Roast Lamb
Do you like this recipe? Please give it a 5-star rating below! And when you make it, share it on Instagram or any other social medium and tag me @azlinbloor. Merci!
Noushe jan | نوش جان
Images from LinsFoodies
Persian Roast Lamb Recipe and Video
- 1 pestle and mortar for crushing saffron
- 1 large knife
- 1 small knife
- 1 bowl for marinade
- 1 large roasting pan
- 1 over
- aluminium foil
- 1 leg or shoulder of lamb weighing about 1.5-2kg (3.5-4.5 lb)
- 1 large onion sliced in rings
- 250 ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
- 5 cloves garlic finely chopped or crushed
- 4 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp EV olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp liquid saffron (7:42 on the video) (made with a pinch of saffron + 2 Tbsp hot water, see below)
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 strip of fresh rosemary leaves only and either pounded or finely chopped
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 Tbsp hot water
- Tip your saffron into a mortar, along with a small pinch of salt. Crush the saffron with the pestle, going round and round (see video at 7:42).
- Add the hot water and leave to soak while you get everything else ready (onions, garlic, get the spices ready, slice the lemon, etc).
- Mix the marinade ingredients together and set aside.
Marinate the Lamb
- Preheat the the oven to 180˚C/350˚F.If you're leaving the lamb to marinate, do this later.
- Taking a small, sharp knife, make half a dozen slashes straight down into the lamb, especially around the thicker parts.
- Rub all over the lamb, pushing down into the cuts and into the meat folds.If you have time, leave the lamb to marinate a minimum of 2 hours, overnight is great and will also save you time the next day.
Roast the Lamb
- Line your chosen baking dish with the sliced onions.
- Sit the lamb on the onions.
- Pour your chosen stock or water in, making sure to pour it on the onions and not the lamb.
- Cover with a foil and roast for 1 hour by which time your lamb will be almost done.
- Take the cover off and roast for another 30-60 minutes, depending on how well done you like your meat. 30 minutes will give you meat still bordering on the pink, a little like the images here. 60 minutes will give you well done.
- When the lamb is done, you'll have a delicious bit of sauce/gravy that you can serve separately. Just get rid of excessive fat from it first, if you like, but I don't bother.Leave to rest for 20 minutes, covered, in a warm place. Serve as suggested in the article above.