JB's lamb curry

Serves: 4
Cooked on: Covered on low heat, 1 hour 30 minutes or till lamb is very tender
Accompaniment: Raita or fresh cucumber-onion salad with a dash of fresh lime
Try this with: Roti or naan 
Lamb steak: 900 gm, with some fat, cut into small cubes
Mustard oil/ ghee/ vegetable oil: 3 TBS
Onions: 2 large, finely chopped
Tomatoes: 4 medium, pureed
Coriander: 4-5 TBS, washed and finely chopped
Bay leaves: 3
Big cardamom: 2, slightly crushed
Whole black pepper: 5
Fenugreek seeds: ½ TSP
Whole red chilli: 1-2
Garlic paste: 2 TSP
Ginger paste: 1 TSP
White vinegar: 2 TBS
Coriander ground: 2 TSP, heaped
Turmeric ground: 1 TSP, heaped
Cumin ground: 1 TSP, heaped
Garam masala: 1 TSP, heaped
Red chilli ground: 2 TSP, heaped
Salt: to taste
Water: 1-2 cups, as desired
  1. Heat the oil in a deep wok/pan on high heat. Once the oil smokes, reduce heat and add the bay leaves, cardamom, whole black pepper, whole red chilli and fenugreek seeds. Cook for 1 minute.
  2. Next add the finely chopped onions and fry them till the onions turn pinkish. Now add the ginger-garlic pastes and cook mixing well till the onions-ginger-garlic turn golden. Take care not to burn the onions.
  3. Add turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, red chilli powder, salt and the vinegar and cook, mixing the spices well. Cook for about 5-6 minutes till spice mixture gives off a ‘cooked’ aroma and the vinegar dries out. Keep stirring so that the spice mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan/wok.
  4. Add the lamb pieces and mix well to cover all the pieces with the spice-in-vinegar mixture. Cook for about 10 minutes so that all lamb pieces are coated and start turning brown.
  5. Add the tomato puree, mix well with the lamb and spices, raise the heat to medium and allow the lamb to cook till it starts releasing water. This takes about 10-15 minutes and you will need to keep stirring the lamb so that it does not burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. Also keep in mind to scrape the spice mix off the sides of the pan while you stir.
  6. Reduce heat now and let the water – the tomato puree will also release water – to dry off. Remember to keep stirring and turning the lamb pieces in the pan so that all pieces get cooked evenly.
  7. Once the lamb-tomato-spice mix dries – the sign is when the liquid in the pan is visibly reduced, the masala/spice mix starts sticking to the pan and is not easily scraped off – add 2 cups of water and cover the pan.
  8. Add the coriander - keeping some for garnishing - and cook for half and hour or more – stirring and mixing intermittently – till the lamb is really tender and the water has almost dried out. If the water has evaporated and the lamb is still somewhat tough – should not happen but if it does – add another half cup water, cover and cook some more.
  9. The best way to check if the lamb is tender enough is to pick out a piece with a fork and bite into it! Vary the water amount depending on how much gravy you want: If you want more gravy, add another cup of water, mix well, raise the heat to medium, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remember that the gravy should not be overly-watery.
  10. Once the meat is tender and you have your desired amount of gravy, turn off the gas, and transfer the lamb curry to a serving dish, garnish with chopped coriander.
Serve with roti / naan or even bread and you’re done!
  1. How to puree tomatoes: Boil water in a saucepan; put the tomatoes in the boiling water and cook covered for 5 minutes. Remove from the gas and let the tomatoes sit in the water (still covered) for another 5 minutes. Remove the lid and you should see cracks on the tomato skins. Drain the hot water, hold tomatoes – careful, these will be hot – under running cold water/ in a bowl of cold water and peel off the skins. Put the skinless tomatoes in your mixer/blender and run the motor for 2 minutes or till tomatoes are pureed. Done!
  2. You can also try this with beef or goat meat. If your family/guests don’t mind bones, choose meat with bones; preferably from the hindquarters. Those who have better suggestions when buying meat, please do share.
  3. This recipe takes patience. While the cooking part is not tough, it tastes best when you let the lamb cook over low heat. The first stage involves allowing the juices of the lamb to dry out. The second stage involves adding water, covering the lamb and letting it cook till the water evaporates and the meat is tender.
  4. If you prefer a drier curry – tastes better with roti/naan/bread – cook for longer to let the water dry out completely. For those who prefer some gravy, let some water remain.
  5. The coriander is a must as I find it adds a particular flavour to the dish. The coriander needs to be added in two stages; majority of it while cooking and then just enough for garnishing before serving.
  6. It can be quite irritating biting into the cardamom when eating or worse, chewing on the whole red chilli. Therefore it is prudent to pick out the cardamoms and whole red chilli before laying the dish out on the table.
  7. Save yourself trouble and buy the roti/ naan from an Indian restaurant/ dhaba.

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