Saturday, 6 February 2010

My Best Ever Lamb Curry

This is my favorite lamb curry recipe ever. It's fairly simple and has the most gorgeous, velvety sauce which is made by the onions melting completely with yogurt and spices. If you're in a place where you can't get a hold of lamb shoulder, or if it's too expensive, skinned, bone-in chicken thighs would make a lovely alternative, but don't use breasts, as they will go stringy and tough during the cooking process. You can buy diced stewing lamb, but if you buy a whole shoulder, you'll pay quite a bit less AND you'll have the bones for stock. This recipe makes a fairly hot curry, so if you're making it for kids or people who like their food a little milder, I'd suggest using less of the chili powder and when slicing the green chilies, make sure that you trim all of the membrane out first, as that's where the heat is, not the seeds. (The membrane is the pale strips of spongy tissue that the seeds are attached to)
Authenticity is usually my aim when making Indian, so I welcome correction or comments.
I served this tonight with onion dhal (recipe to follow) and saffron rice.

Spicy Lamb in Curry Sauce
shown served with onion dhal and saffron rice
Serves 6 takes approx 1 hour, 45mins

1kg lamb shoulder, cut into 4cm chunks (discard any large bands of fat)
4 medium onions, sliced very thinly into half moons
3 tbsp ghee* or sunflower oil
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
4 green chillies, sliced lengthwise
5 cloved garlic, minced,
2" piece ginger root, peeled and grated
250ml plain yoghurt
1 1/2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp dessicated (not sweetened) coconut
1 1/2 tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp hot chili powder (or to taste)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
handful fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
3 tsp salt

In a dry pan on a medium heat, toast the coriander, cumin, coconut, mustard seeds, sesame seeds and fenugreek, moving the mixture around in the pan to prevent scorching. after a couple of minutes, when the spices are fragrant and darker in colour, tip them into a pestle and mortar and grind until fairly fine. Add the salt and chili powder to this mix and with the ginger, garlic and yoghurt. Add the meat to the spice/yoghurt mixture and stir to completely cover all the meat, then set aside for half an hour or so while you do the rest of the prep for the meal.
In a medium pan, heat the ghee (or oil) and add all those sliced onions, stirring to coat in the oil and then from time to time to ensure even cooking. Once soft and golden, add the meat and spice mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring time to time to start all the meat cooking nicely. Add 400ml water and bring to a low simmer, then cover loosely and lower the heat and let it gently tick away for an hour. Check the pot every so often to make sure that the bottom isn't catching. If the moisture isn't evaporating quickly enough, leave the pot uncovered until the meat is cooked through and tender and the onions have completely fallen apart. Stir in the garam masala, lemon juice, sliced chilies and tomatoes and allow to cook for five more minutes.

Garnish with plenty of fresh coriander and serve with either plain boiled basmati rice or pilao rice and a lentil dish like the onion dhal below.

*Ghee is clarified butter. Khanum brand is the most widely available in the UK and has a slightly cheesy (rancid?) quality that I think adds to the authenticity of most curries but it's not essential.

Onion Dhal

200g urid dhal
1 tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
600ml water
1 bunch spring onions (scallions) chopped
2 cm fresh ginger root, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cm fresh turmeric root, finely grated (or 1 tsp dried, ground turmeric)**
1 tsp salt
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Rinse the dhal well and set aside. Fry the onion, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until fragrant, then add the turmeric. stir to combine and add the dhal and the water. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat, allowing the lentils to cook gently fo about 20-25 minutes until tender and all the water has evaporated, then stir in the salt. Adding the salt before the lentils have cooked through can make them hard and bullet-like instead of tender. This is also true for other lentils and dried beans. always add the salt at the end.
Sprinkle over the green chili (if using) and serve immediately. I always make extra and have it with eggs for breakfast the next day.

**Turmeric is known to have phenomenal medicinal properties. It's brilliant on cuts and grazes, as it is a natural antiseptic, but it is also used to treat everything from liver diseases, digestive disorders, arthritis and even cancer. Careful though, it stains like a bugger.
Lamb Curry on FoodistaLamb Curry


  1. wow, Emily! mouth-watering to read this on a sunday afternoon :p
    ok, firstly I have to admit I was raised a vegetarian- I began eating meat about 4 years ago (only bland european stuff to start with :)) and learnt Indian meat cooking from friends much later! So, my ideas of intricacies involved are still half-baked :P

    In general, Indians use mutton(goat) as opposed to lamb! I personally can't stand the lamb smell in some dishes :p
    ok, your procedure seems correct for that aromatic sauce starting with raw ingredients..and you've used the fine art of slow cooking to effect :)

    The Dhal is my favourite but this one's a surprise! I've not tasted Urid dhal this way :p
    I usually do a chana dal/onion fry..
    ok, you've scored half points on paper! only need to taste it now for the remaing half :p

  2. I love your blog. I like the lamb recipe. My friend cooked me some really delicious lamb that you might be interested in checking out on my blog. Its her mother's recipe and comes from Mumbai, India.

  3. Thanks for this recipe which is cooking on my stove this minute!

  4. Goodness I don't know what I did wrong but this was awful. Expensively awful. I cook a lot of Indian food and did wonder about the quantities of spices in this. Even though I dry roasted them and instead of using a pestle and mortar used a coffee grinder (which should have made them more refined) this dish was grainy and the coriander seed husks were very much in evidence. There was a nasty under taste which was not quite bitter but not sure what. Not for me I am afraid. Has anyone else cooked it? If so I would br grateful for their take. I need a good lamb curry in my collection!

  5. Just made this. Having friends over tonight. Changed the recipe - I think most of the spice quantities say tbsp when it should have said tsp! Smells very nice and tastes good. I was a bit incautious with the chilli's and added 4 as suggested in the recipe - it turns out they are very hot! I have made about 6 other dishes, and expect the the heat may mean that I have a lot of this left over! It is delicious though. I added about a third of a nutmeg grated too.