Lamb Shank Rogan Josh

Cardamom

This is a really special recipe, for those who like putting a bit of love (and time) into their curry-making. The spicing is different to my standard Kashmiri Lamb Rogan Josh recipe because it doesn’t use any shortcuts. I don’t use a lot of pre-ground spice here – I toast the cumin, coriander, fennel, peppercorns and cloves before grinding and adding to the gravy. I use authentic Kashmiri chillies for both their flavour and deep red colour. I use shanks of lamb because traditional Rogan Josh is slow-cooked with the meat bones, giving a very deep flavour and rich consistency. It would make a fantastic dinner party dish.

I also use a whopping 25 green cardamoms in this recipe – no, it’s not a mistake! I love the flavour of cardamom and it’s certainly pushed centre-stage in this recipe. Removing the seeds from the green husk is a bit of “pullaver”, but it’s worth the effort. You could add a little saffron, as it’s very traditional in Rogan Josh, but I find the flavour tends to dominate and I don’t want anything to interfere the other spices. A traditional Rogan Josh will also normally include some yoghurt but I prefer it without as I don’t want a creamy consistency in my RJ. Give it a try, it’s the best curry you’ll ever taste.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lamb shanks
  • 2 tbsp sunflower/groundnut oil
  • knob of butter
  • 500g onions, chopped (about 3 large onions)
  • 8 cloves  garlic, peeled
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 25 green cardamoms
  • 1 tbsp each of the following: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2-inch piece of cinnamon (broken into small shards)
  • 5 cloves
  • 500g tomato passata
  • 500ml water
  • 1½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chili powder (if you can’t find this, replace with 1½ tsp regular chili powder and 2 tsp sweet paprika)
  • 3 whole dried Kashmiri chilies
  • 2 large black cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala (optional, but make sure it’s homemade!)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
  2. Crush the green cardamoms using a mortar and pestle. Separate the black seeds from the green husk and discard the husk.
  3. Using a dry frying-pan, carefully toast the cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon shards. Keep the seeds moving in the pan, taking care not to burn them. You’ll know they’re done when they start to release a heady aroma. Transfer to a spice/coffee grinder (or a mortar and pestle) and allow to cool.
  4. Grind the toasted spices to a fine powder.
  5. Place a cast-iron casserole on the hob and heat the oil and butter. Add the lamb shanks and turn until golden on all sides. Remove the shanks using a slotted spoon and set aside.
  6. Add the onions to the residual oil in the casserole and cook gently for around 30 minutes until soft and light brown in colour. Add the garlic and ginger and for another two minutes.
  7. Remove the browned onion mixture from the casserole using a slotted spoon and add to a blender. Add a little water and blend until very smooth.
  8. Put the casserole back on the heat. Add the onion/garlic mixture to the casserole, then add the ground spices, chilli powder, whole dried chillies, black cardamom pods, bay leaves. Fry for a minute before adding the tomato passata and the water. Stir well to combine before returning the lamb shanks to the gravy, along with any juices that have collected. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 3 hours until the meat is very tender, almost falling off the bone.
  9. Before serving, you can spoon off some of the fat which has risen to the top of the sauce, if you wish. You can add a little garam masala to taste also. Best served with plain basmati rice or a Kashmiri pilaff.

Serves 4-6.

Notes

  • Of course, you could use good quality stewing lamb in place of the lamb shanks. Use 1.2kg of leg/shoulder and follow the instructions in the Kashmiri Lamb Rogan Josh recipe.
  • This recipe requires a very smooth gravy. For this reason, I’d recommend investing in an electric spice (coffee) grinder. But a mortar and pestle will work well too – it just requires more effort to get a finer textured masala.
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