Growing up with a Dad from Lucknow but one who moved with his family to Dubai fairly early in his career, we had a Sunday tradition of making Lamb Rogan Josh from scratch. It was quite an event – Dad and I would go to the fresh butcher’s markets to pick up succulent pieces of lamb, freshly sliced, collect all the whole spices, dry fruits that we’d need and a couple of hours for the dish to stew and reach its aromatic perfection. The family would gather at the table over this delicious meal served with fragrant basmati rice topped with fresh coriander.
With the onset of lockdown, I had enough time to re-create this dish. I got on a call with my Dad and set about sourcing the ingredients.
- 5-8 centimeters of cinnamon
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 black cardamom pod (that reminds me of autumn and wet leaves or bonfires!)
- 3-4 green cardamom pods (for some of that floral fragrance and taste)
- 6 cloves (a lovely, warming spice)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder (you can use dried red chillies if you want. 5, to be precise)
- 1 kg of de-boned lamb
- 1 bowl of greek yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds|
- 1 teaspoon of garam masala
- 1 tablespoon of toasted almonds
- Rice as per serving
- Fresh Coriander
- Mixer-Grinder or Mortar-Pestle
- Kadhai or Wok
I take these ingredients and blend them in a spice blender. I used Wonderchef’s Glory Mixer Grinder to achieve a fine, heady, deep, smoke masala powder that smells amazing. I will use this to season my dish with. You could also use a pestle and mortar but that would take quite longer.
Next, I put 4 tablespoons of ghee into a kadhai (I used the Nigella 3-ply stainless steel kadhai) on medium heat. I stir the masala for a bit until it releases oil and smells absolutely divine. What I intend to do is brown the meat and the final result should be a sort of dense, textured and smooth dish.
Once the ghee is warm, I’ll add the lamb to the pan. I’ll stir it until it starts to brown and seal in all the lovely juices. As it starts to brown and soften up, the meaty juices will start to fill the kadhai. Next, I’ll add a few tablespoons of ginger and garlic puree and stir it. Once it coats the meat, it’ll disappear into the meat juice. Once it’s cooked for a bit, I’ll add some room temperature Greek Yoghurt (and I use greek yoghurt because of the sour tang it adds to the dish). I’ll take some of the juice from the kadhai and add it to the yoghurt and stir it so it brings up to the same temperature of the kadhai so it doesn’t petrify the yoghurt.
Now, I’ll fold in the yoghurt in the kadhai, little by little, to assure it assimilates perfectly with the meat. The dish will change complexion over time. Once I start to add the yoghurt, it looks quite milky and pale and not that attractive. As I stir and the meat cooks once I put the lid on, it deepens and the texture is meatier and browner. After giving it a good mix, I’ll let it cook for 8-10 minutes at medium-high heat.
Once the sauce is reduced after I’ve lost about a quarter of moisture in the pan, I’ll take the masala powder I blended earlier and tip the lot into the kadhai. To add to that, I’ll add one table-spoon of ground coriander. I’ll give it a good stir and at this point, I’ll add salt to season. With the addition of the spices, the gravy looks a bit more like it should – a deep, brown colour. Over the next hour, this colour will only get better.
After an hour, I do a taste test and after a touch of salt and a teaspoon of garam masala, I add 1 teaspoon of ground fennel seeds and the lamb begins to fall apart and gets supremely well mixed with the gravy. I’ll top it with some toasted almonds. It’s ready to serve up!
I serve it with a side of Basmati rice topped with some finely chopped fresh coriander!
Author : Alina Gufran, writer and film-maker, who loves the outdoors and reading.