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4 Corners of the Kitchen: Lamb

A dish of lamb and greens

Lamb is as versatile a meat as any—whether fried, chopped, or stewed, it is the star ingredient in countless delicious recipes. One of the first animals ever domesticated, sheep have long been used for food both for their meat and their milk. Lamb meat comes from a sheep that is less than one-year-old. After one year, the meat is called hogget, and after two years the meat is called mutton. Though different countries may vary in their definitions of what these categories of sheep meat are called, lamb is always the most expensive because it is the most tender.

Due to the widespread domestication of sheep, lamb recipes can be found all over the world. It is fascinating to see how different cultures have taken this classic ingredient and turned it into something spectacular.

Elizabeth Kenning

India: Lamb Biryani


  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1¾ tsp salt
  • 1 lb. boneless lamb, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1 onion, cut into thin slices
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom or ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1½ cups long-grain rice, preferably basmati
  • 2¾ cups water
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup chopped cashews

  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt with garlic, cayenne, cumin, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir in lamb.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over moderate heat. Add onion and cook until starting to soften, about three minutes. Stir in cardamom, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, rice, and remain-ing 1¼ teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring, for one minute.
  3. Add lamb mixture to pan. Stir in water and raisins. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until rice and lamb are almost done, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, until rice and lamb are just done, about five minutes. Stir in cashews.

Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

Australia: Roast Leg of Lamb


  • 5 lb. leg of lamb
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 Tbs fresh rosemary
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Cut slits in top of the leg of lamb every three to four inches, deep enough to push slices of garlic down into meat. Generously salt and pepper top of lamb, and place several sprigs of fresh rosemary under and on top of lamb. Place lamb on roasting pan.
  3. Roast in oven until lamb is cooked to desired doneness, about two hours. Do not overcook lamb; the flavor is best if meat is still slightly pink. Let rest at least ten minutes before carving.

Adapted from

Roast leg of lamb.

England: Lamb Shepherd’s Pie


  • 1½ lb. lamb shoulder chop (bone in)
  • 1 Tbs salt and
  • 1 Tbs freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1½ cups water
  • 3–4 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1–2 inch chunks
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • ¼–½ cup milk
  • 2 Tbs sour cream
  • 2 Tbs shredded cheddar
  • 1–2 Tbs butter, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
  2. Generously rub lamb chop with a bit of oil and season generously. Place into a snug-fitting, high-sided, oven-safe dish and add a bit of water to bottom. Roast for two hours, or until meat is tender and falling off the bone.
  3. Remove lamb from oven and let cool slightly. Take lamb off the bone and roughly chop; make sure to save bones, fat, and accumulated juices from roasting.
  4. There should be about two tablespoons of fat in roast-ing tray. Place fat into a high-sided pan and warm over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and rosemary. Cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about ten minutes.
  5. Sprinkle on flour and stir well. Add lamb, bones, and tray juices to pan, as well as 1½ cups of water. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to a gentle simmer, reducing until you get a loose lamb stew. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. While lamb is cooking down, prepare your potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add potatoes and cook until very tender, 15–20 minutes. Drain, then mash, mixing in butter, milk, sour cream, and cheddar. Taste, adjust with extra milk and butter if needed, and season.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  8. In a pie dish, spread a thin layer of potato on bottom and sides. Spoon in lamb filling and then cover with remaining mashed potatoes. Top with dabs of butter, if desired.
  9. Bake for one hour until top is crisp and golden. Enjoy!

Adapted from

Bowl of onions.
Lamb chop.

Mexico: Lamb Barbacoa


  • 3–5 lb. lamb shoulder (bone-in or boneless)
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
Barbacoa Marinade:

  • 2–4 dried ancho chilies (stems and seeds removed)
  • 1 chipotle pepper (plus 2–3 Tbs of the chipotle “juice”)
  • 4–6 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth, beef broth, or water
  • Juice from one orange
  • 2 Tbs cumin
  • 2 Tbs coriander
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 2 Tbs dried oregano or Mexican epazote
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar, honey, or maple

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
  2. Score fat on lamb. Generously season all sides of lamb shoulder with salt. Set on counter while making marinade.
  3. To make marinade, de-stem dried chilies, break them in half and discard seeds. Break chilies apart into smaller pieces and add to blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth.
  4. Heat a skillet or Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add oil. Sear salted lamb shoulder, patiently browning each side to create a deep-colored crust.
  5. Once all sides are seared, place lamb shoulder in Dutch oven. Nestle onion and orange slices all around it along with bay leaves. Pour marinade over top and shake pan to get marinade to bottom.
  6. Cover tightly and bake in a 325°F oven for three to four hours.
  7. Roast is done when meat pulls apart easily. Pull meat off bones (if using bone-in) and discard any fat. Tear into smaller pieces and place into an ovenproof serving dish. Strain one to two cups of marinade and pour over meat, keeping it moist. Taste lamb and adjust salt and heat to taste.

Adapted from