Christmas Persian Roast Lamb

Updated: Jun 6, 2021

I made this finger licking Persian roast lamb today with herb rice, it was a fantastic treat for our Christmas Eve dinner. The lamb takes next to no time to put together and comes out smelling and looking beautiful. It's one of those dishes that you put in the oven and let it do it's magic, which I love on days like this, where spending time with the family and having fun play centre stage.

The rice is blissful and again like the lamb, once you fry the onions, dry herbs and layer in-between the rice, which is the only technical part in this recipe, you just let it take its time gracefully steaming away!

If you're in love with Tahdig like all Iranians, then you can add thin slices of potato to the bottom of your rice pot to get that lovely Tahdig at the end, beware to take your share, as it does a disappearing act as soon at it hits the dining table!


1kg leg of lamb (can be slightly smaller as well)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp saffron

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp  pepper

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 large onion

2 large garlic bulbs

2 tbsp olive oil

4 cups of water

For the herb rice

2 1/2 cups of good white rice

1/2 tbsp salt

tbsp oil (vegetable oil for base of your pot)

1 tsp butter

1/4 tsp ground saffron (this is for your diluted saffron)

1/2 cup dry dill

1/2 cup dry mint

2 large cloves garlic

1 onion 1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 cup oil (vegetable oil for frying your onions and herbs)

Cooking time max 2hrs 30min


Step 1

  • Place the lamb in a large roasting tin

Note: I used lamb leg fillet end

  • Add all the spices and rub well into the lamb

Step 2

  • Chop the onion and add into the roasting tin

  • Place two large garlic cloves into the roasting tin

  • Add 4 cups of cold water

  • Gently turn the lamb so it is washed with the water

  • Drizzle olive oil over the garlic cloves and lamb

Step 3

  • Cover the roasting tin with tin foil

  • Place in the oven at 200 degrees or gas mark 6 for 1hr 30 mins

Note: Make sure you turn the lamb after 45 minutes. If the water has reduced too much add an extra cup.

  • After 1hr 30 mins check if the lamb has cooked through, if not place back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

  • Once the lamb has cooked through, remove the foil and allow the lamb to roast for another 15 minutes

  • Once the rice is cooked, place on top or at the side of your rice before serving

For the herb rice (drained and steamed)

Step 1

  • Place 2 1/2 cups of rice in a medium to large sized non stick cooking pot.

  • Wash the rice about 2 to 3 times under cold water to clean, draining the water each time.

  • Fill the pot half way with cold water and mix 1/2 a tbsp of salt and 2 tbsp of oil.

Note: This technique of cooking your rice will allow the salt to bring out the flavour of the rice and the oil to prevent it from sticking together.

Place the pot on a high heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the water starts to boil and the rice becomes par boiled.

Step 2

  • Remove the pot from the heat and drain the water using a colander

  • Set aside

Step 3

  • Slice the onions into thin slivers

  • Add 1/4 cup of oil to a frying pan

  • Fry the onions until golden brown

  • Add the turmeric and fry for 30 seconds

  • Add the dry dill and mint and continue frying for 1 minute

  • Add the crushed garlic cloves and fry lightly for 30 seconds

  • Remove from the heat

Step 4

  • Place 5 tbsp of oil in the pot and ensure the oil spreads all round the pot

Note: You can at this stage layer thin potato slices at the bottom of the pot to make a potato Tahdig (crispy base)

  • Place back on the heat

  • Gently layer half of the par boiled rice in the pot

  • Add the fried onion and herb mixture on top of this first layer of rice

Step 5

  • Add the rest of the rice over the layer of fried onion and herb mixture

  • Add 1 tsp butter on top of the rice in the centre

  • Cover the top of the pot and allow the rice to steam gradually on a low heat for 30 minutes or until the  rice is cooked and comes apart without sticking together.

Note: If you have layered the bottom of your pot with potatoes, you may need to keep on the heat for an extra 10 to 15 minutes to ensure it becomes crispy and forms a good Tahdig!

  • With a fork pick at the rice so that the herb layer mixes with the rest of the rice

Serve with garlic yogurt sprinkled with nigella seeds. The gravy can be served separately with the roasted garlic.

Christmas Persian Roast Lamb
Christmas Persian Roast Lamb

What a beautiful dish to enjoy on this festive occasion. Noosh-e-Jaan :)

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