Dumpukht is a slow cooking technique in which meat or vegetables are cooked in a sealed container on very low heat for a long time. Word “dumpukht” is derived from Persian language and it means ‘air cooked’ which refers to the hot steam inside the container. It is believed that Mughals brought this method of cooking to South Asia but it was revived and refined in the 18th century by Nawab Asaf-ud- Daulah’s royal chefs who cooked many recipes using this method other than just big chunks of meat.

Traditionally food was par-cooked or sautéed first to seal the juices and give it some colour. Then it was added to a big earthenware pot or heavy metal cauldron with a little bit of water. The lid was sealed to the pot with flour and water paste and the pot placed over a hot bed of coals. Or the pot was buried under sand and topped with hot burning coals. Then it was left for hours to simmer slowly.

This recipe is inspired by the Afghani style Dumpukht that makes use of very few ingredients. First a big pot is layered with chunks of lamb fat or charbi, then meat and whole vegetables are placed over it. The dish is usually just seasoned with lots of salt that acts both as flavour enhancer and meat tenderiser.

I have skipped the use of animal fat and used olive oil instead and added a few other flavour enhancers like ginger, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper and cumin to cut down on salt. I prefer to cook this in the oven after I have briefly fried the meat in a pan because that’s a more hassle free method. Once the meat is in the oven for three hours, I am free to do other chores. When oven timer rings, the dinner comes out steaming hot, tender, juicy and ready to dig in. This is the easiest way to cook a scrumptious meal with least effort and active time spent in the kitchen which makes it ideal for formal dinners and weekend family meals.


Lamb leg with bone, 1.5 kg
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 small onions, peeled
6 small potatoes, peeled
6 whole tomatoes
4 green chilli peppers
4 tablespoons olive oil

This Is What You Do:

Poke lamb leg all over with a fork. Mix ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and cumin powder. Pour the marinade over lamb leg and rub it all over. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oil in a big, wide mouthed pan. Fry the lamb leg on both sides till meat is slightly charred on the outside and the juices are sealed in.

If you want to cook it on stove top then add whole onions, potatoes, tomatoes, green chilli peppers and 1 cup water to the pan. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible. Seal the edges of the pan with flour dough, cover with a tight fitting lid so that no steam can escape.

Let the meat cook for 3 hours in its own juices.

To cook in the oven, preheat oven at 180 degrees C. Lightly grease an oven proof dish to fit in the lamb leg. Place the lamb leg in the dish. Pour the frying juices from the pan over it. Add onions, potatoes, tomatoes and green chilli peppers. In this method there is no need to add water.

Cover the pan with foil sheet so that the steam stays in. Bake for 3 hours or till the meat is fall of the bone tender.

Serve hot with fresh salad and naan.

Serves 4