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I’ve been making variations of these two recipes for years but have never written up a proper recipe. Until now! We’ve enjoyed them three times over the past few weeks, whilst I’ve tweaked and tested, and may I boastfully say GOD they’re SO good. Both my boys love them, as do the husband and I. I’d classify them as the perfect planned-over pair – an easy weekend dinner of spiced leg of lamb on a bed of roasted vegetables; followed up to 3 nights later by a super-fast Indian-style rice biryani.
The lamb is coated in a zingy home-made spice paste which chars the top of the lamb beautifully, and trickles down into the roasted veggies. Half the spice paste is reserved as a flavour base for the biryani, along with a portion of the roast lamb and vegetables. Throw everything into a deep frying pan with stock, basmati rice and a handful of baby spinach and your weeknight dinner is sorted.
A traditional biryani takes hours to prepare, but by using good old planned-overs you can have it on the table in 20 minutes!

Spiced roast lamb[Recipe 1] Spiced roast leg of lamb with cauliflower and lentils

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2¼ kilo (4½ lb) leg of lamb, bone in
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans lentils, drained, rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see notes below recipe)
4 large carrots (approx. 650g/1½ lb), cut into thick 1cm (½”) slices
Coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve
Spice paste (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2½cm (1”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 1½ tablespoons)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Prepare the spice paste by processing the dry spices, garlic, ginger, salt, oil and lemon juice with a stick blender or food processor, until combined. Add the lemon zest and mix well.
♦ Reserve half the spice paste (¼ cup/60g) for the lamb biryani.
Make shallow incisions in the lamb and brush thickly all over with the remaining spice paste. Cover loosely and allow lamb to sit at room temperature for an hour, before roasting. (Note: lamb can also be coated in the spice mix, covered, and stored in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Bring it to room temperature for an hour before roasting).
Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place the spiced lamb into a lightly-oiled shallow baking dish. Add one cup of water. Roast for 1 hour.
Turn heat down to 180°C (350ºF). Add carrot slices to the pan and lightly toss to coat in the pan juices. Baste lamb. Roast lamb and carrots for a further 30 minutes.
Add cauliflower pieces to the pan and lightly toss to coat in the pan juices. Roast lamb, carrots and cauliflower pieces for a further 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb from the pan, cover lightly with foil, and rest for 20 minutes.
Total cooking time for 2¼ kilo (4½ lb) leg of lamb = 2 hours + 20 minutes resting time.
Meanwhile, add lentils to the pan and toss with the carrot and cauliflower pieces. Pop veggies back in the oven for a further 10 minutes, while the lamb is resting.
Slice meat from the bone.
♦ Reserve 1½–2 cups sliced roast lamb for the lamb biryani.
♦ Reserve 1½–2 cups cooked carrot, cauliflower and lentils for the lamb biryani.
Serve remaining sliced lamb with the remaining roasted carrots, cauliflower and lentils. Scatter with coriander.

  • Planned-overs (reserved cooked lamb, cauliflower, carrots and lentils) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Spice paste will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Don’t worry too much about reserving the exact specified amount of lamb and vegetables for the biryani. The biryani is a pretty forgiving recipe and will easily cope with more or less meat or veggies. Unused leftover lamb and roasted vegetables are delicious in a sandwich or wrap with tahini sauce and baby spinach leaves.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.
  • If you fancy baked potatoes with your roast, place two or three large quartered, peeled potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer uncovered for 10–15 minutes, until almost tender. Drain and return potatoes to the dry pan. Place the lid on, and shake the pan over a medium heat to roughen and dry them. Add a splash of vegetable oil and toss to coat. Place prepared potato wedges into the pan at the same time as the carrots – they should be laid on top of the carrots so they crisp nicely. They can be cooked in a separate pan or on a small baking-paper lined tray, if your roasting pan is too full. 

Lamb biryani

[Recipe 2] Quick lamb and vegetable biryani

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown or red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
¼ cup/60g reserved spice paste
♦ 1½–2 cups reserved sliced roast lamb, chopped
♦ 1½–2 cups reserved roast cauliflower, carrot and lentils, (carrot chopped into small pieces)
1¼ cups (275g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
75g (3 oz) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Cracked black pepper
65g (2¼ oz) slivered almonds, toasted
Greek yogurt, to serve

Heat oil in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion for 5 minutes, until soft.
♦ Add reserved spice paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until aromatic.
♦ Add reserved lamb and vegetables and mix well. Add rice and stock, stir well to combine, and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add baby spinach and cook, uncovered, for a further 2–3 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Season with pepper.
Divide biryani amongst four bowls. Scatter with toasted slivered almonds and a large plop of Greek yogurt.