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Pakistani-Style Grilled Marinated Leg of Lamb

6 to 8 Servings

1 hour 50 minutes 45 minutes active, plus marinating

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At Bagh Restaurant in Lahore, Pakistan, cook Naveed Gill charred marinated mutton chops over a live fire, developing rich, smoky flavor as well as delicious crisped bits that contrasted with the tender meat. The marinade consisted of aromatic spices plus a trio of ingredients that tenderized the chops: papaya puree, yogurt and lemon juice. We wanted to re-create the dish using easier-to-source boneless leg of lamb, with lamb chops as an alternative. We also simplified the marinade, paring it down to the essentials. But the papaya, yogurt and lemon were key. Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that’s an effective meat tenderizer, while the acidity of the lemon juice and the calcium in the yogurt enhance papain’s effect. We found that either fresh or frozen papaya chunks work well. Boneless leg of lamb is challenging to grill whole, so before marinating, we score the thicker muscles with a sharp knife to allow the marinade to sink into those areas. We also cut the leg into three or four pieces so they are more manageable on the grill and can be removed as they are done. This also allows you to cook some pieces less for those who prefer red or rosy lamb and other pieces more for those who like medium or well-done meat. For a leg of lamb, eight hours in the minimum time for marinating, and 24 hours is the maximum, so plan accordingly. Lamb chops, which start out more tender and are thinner, require only two to four hours in the marinade.

6 to 8



Don’t use canned papaya, as the fruit has been heat-treated, which destroys the tenderizing enzymes. Also, don’t add the coriander, caraway and cumin seeds to the blender with the papaya, yogurt and other ingredients. Adding the spices once the puree is smooth and pulsing just a few times leaves the seeds coarsely cracked, which lends texture.

1 hour 50 minutes

45 minutes active, plus marinating


  • 1

    cup (about 5½ ounces) fresh or frozen (thawed) papaya chunks

  • ¼

    cup plain yogurt, prefereably whole milk or low-fat


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