Indian spiced pulled lamb

by Beca Lyne-Pirkis

Melt-in-your-mouth barbecued meat with sweet and crunchy slaw

A little more effort and preparation is needed for this recipe, but it’s worth it and each stage takes only a few minutes. The end result is moist and fragrant lamb that melts in your mouth.


750g bone-in lamb shoulder

For the marinade:
1 medium onion
3 large garlic clove
2" fat piece of root ginger, skin on
A handful of fresh coriander stalks
1 green chilli
200ml natural yoghurt
1 tsp salt

For the spice rub:
¾ tsp each of ground ginger, Kashmiri chilli powder, amchur (mango powder), fennel seeds
9 cardamom pods, black seeds taken out
1½ tsp each of ground coriander, ground cumin, cinnamon, turmeric
1 tsp sugar

For the crunchy and sweet slaw:
¼ cauliflower
½ red onion
1 small fennel
¼ red cabbage
1 red chilli
1 small mango
Small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1½ tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
Juice of 1 lime
Rapeseed oil, enough to balance the lime juice
1 tsp caster sugar

To serve:
Mini naan breads or pittas
Some plain yoghurt, either natural or Greek


I started my prep for this recipe around 36 hours in advance of my cooking start time, so get organised and work out a little timetable so you know what you need to do and when. I marinade my meat on a Friday night so that it has around 20-24 hours in the marinade ahead of the rub going on. The rub then needs around 12 hours before you smoke the meat for 2-2½ hours. The meat will be ready for a late Sunday lunch or an early Sunday supper. As I said in my intro, this recipe does take a little effort, but it’s worth it.

Whizz all the marinade ingredients together until nearly all smooth. Put the lamb shoulder into a large sandwich bag along with the marinade, seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Pop the bag into another bag and leave to marinate over night in the fridge. 

This ‘base’ marinade, as I like to call it, adds a great level of flavour to the meat through the onions, garlic, ginger, etc. The yoghurt also helps to break down and starts ‘cooking’ the meat ahead of it reaching the barbecue. It will also prepare the meat for the rub, so that the fragrant spice mix penetrates the meat. 

After the meat has had its 24 hours, scrape off as much marinade as possible using your hands then place the shoulder on a plate ready for the rub.

Lightly toast the fennel seeds then grind them along with the black seeds from the cardamom pods until they resemble sand. Pop the cardamom seeds and fennel into a small bowl along with the other rub spices and mix well. 

Spoon the rub over the marinated lamb and massage the spices into the meat, making sure it is evenly distributed. Leave to rest until needed to cook—around 12 hours is plenty.

I smoked my meat for 2 hours first, just to give it a lightly smoked flavour which complemented the spice rub perfectly. Get your smoker to a temperature of 135C and smoke your lamb for 2-2½ hours, turning halfway. There’s no need to baste or ‘mop’ your meat, as it won’t be on the smoker long enough to dehydrate, plus this cut of meat has plenty of fat throughout to keep it moist. 

After this time, wrap the lamb in some foil and continue to cook on a regular barbecue, heated to a temperature of 140-160C. Place the foil wrapped lamb away from direct heat; build and light your fire to one side, placing the lamb on the other side. It helps if your barbecue lid has a thermometer or if you have one you can use on a barbecue.

You don’t want the meat to burn or cook too quickly, as it will become tough—we’re cooking low and slow so that the bone comes out of the meat clean and the lamb just pulls apart easily, yet is still moist.

When the meat goes on to the barbecue for its 3-hour stint, prepare the slaw so that the vegetables enough time to mingle and get to know each other before being served with the lamb. Simply slice the slaw vegetables and fruit as thinly as possible, place in a bowl with the herbs and toasted seeds, season and dress with the lime juice and rapeseed oil. Taste and adjust to suit your palate. Cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge until needed.

Every 45 min or so, turn the foil package of meat over, so it is exposed to the heat evenly. After 3 hours on the barbecue, your meat should be perfect. I find that you don’t need to let the meat rest before you ‘pull’ it; the bone helps to make sure that the meat is perfectly cooked by conducting heat while cooking. You’ll know if it’s ready as the bone will come out really easily, without tugging on any meat. 

To serve, toast your naan breads then cut open, generously spoon in some coleslaw, then heap a pile of lamb on top. You can dollop on some yoghurt if you like, although I prefer mine without. Be warned, the lamb and slaw are both very moreish.

Recipe: Beca Lyne-Pirkis