Lamb is cooked slowly in aromatic spices until tender and coated in a thick, red curry sauce. This authentic recipe is naturally Gluten-free and Dairy-free.
Rogan Josh is a Persian dish consisting of lamb or mutton that is slow-cooked in aromatic spices. It has a deep red colour, which comes from ground chilli peppers rather than tomatoes (a Western intervention). As the hot seeds from the chillis are normally removed, Rogan Josh is actually a fairly mild dish. Due to the long cooking time, it is important to use a cut of meat taken from a hard-worked or weight-bearing part of the animal, such as the neck or shoulder. These cuts are full of tough, connective tissue that needs to be cooked slowly in order to break down the collagen. Low and slow cooking effectively melts the collagen, and converts it into silky smooth gelatin. This is released into the cooking liquid, creating a thick, enriched sauce that sets like jelly when cooled. Tender cuts such as loin will simply dry out, resulting in tough, flavourless meat.
Tips & Tricks
- Fry the meat before braising it – this caramelises meat sugars on the surface, which develops the flavour
- Heat the pan to sizzling point – this creates an instant seal when the meat is added, preventing it from sticking and keeping the moisture locked in
- Do not overcrowd the pan – this will cause the meat to stew in its own juices rather than brown
- Fry the spices – this releases the flavour compounds, allowing the essential oils from the spices to dissolve into the cooking oil (they are not water soluble)
- Add liquid once the oil starts to separate – this means that all the moisture has evaporated, so the spices will quickly start to burn
- Cover for most of the cooking time – this traps the steam and stops the liquid from evaporating before the meat has finished cooking
- Skim off the oil – a greasy layer of fat is not appetising and dilutes the flavour
- Reduce the cooking liquid – this concentrates the flavour and creates a thick coating that clings to the meat rather than running off and pooling at the bottom of the plate
for the paste:
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 whole cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 1 whole dried chilli
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 thumb-sized pieces of root ginger (20g), peeled
- 75g roasted red peppers, from a can, drained (or 1 fresh bell pepper, roasted until black and blistered, skin peeled)
- 2 tablespoons (40g) tomato purée
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
for the curry:
- 1 kg boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 4cm pieces
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used lard)
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 1/4 pints (710ml) homemade stock (I used lamb stock, but chicken stock works well too)
- Make the curry paste. You can make the paste ahead, as it will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. To store, spoon into a jam jar, press down to eliminate air bubbles, and then pour over a layer of neutral-tasting oil.
- Break open the cardamom pods by crushing with the broad side of a heavy knife. Shake out the seeds and discard the husks.
- Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the whole spices (cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and dried chilli) and dry fry for 1 – 2 minutes, or until they release a fragrant aroma. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan. Tip into a spice grinder and grind until finely ground (if you do not have a spice grinder, then use a pestle and mortar or the small bowl of a food processor). Set aside.
- Put the aromatics (garlic, ginger, red peppers and tomato purée) in the small bowl of a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Tip in the toasted spices, and the remaining paste ingredients (paprika, garam masala, turmeric and salt). Blitz to a smooth paste.
- Brown the meat. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a heavy-based casserole over a medium-high heat. When a few drops of water sizzle and evaporate upon contact with the pan, add the lamb. Sear the lamb in 3-4 batches until browned all over with a caramelised crust – about 4 minutes a batch. Add more cooking oil if necessary. Do not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl.
- Fry the onion & spices. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and the onion. Fry for about 5 minutes, until translucent but not brown.
- Reduce the heat to low. Scrape in the curry paste and stir until blended. Cook until the oil starts to separate – about 3-5 minutes (it is important not to rush this stage, as it develops flavour and stops the spices from tasting raw).
- Simmer the curry. Return the lamb to the casserole, and mix until evenly coated in the spice mix. Pour in the stock. The lamb should be more-or-less submerged in liquid. Top up with a bit of extra stock / water if this is not the case. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover, and leave to simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover, and simmer gently for 1 hour more.
- Traditionally, stews are made the day before they are to be eaten. This improves the flavour by allowing the spices to develop and meld together.
- If eating another day: leave to cool overnight in the refrigerator. After several hours chilling, the fat will rise to the top and congeal to form a solid layer on top. When you want to eat the stew, gently scrape off the fat with a metal spoon and discard. Bring to the boil, then follow the instructions below to reduce the sauce.
- if eating straight away: take the pan off the heat, and remove the meat using a slotted spoon. Wait for the oil to separate out and rise to the top. Tilt the pan, then lower in a metal spoon or ladle and scoop up the oil from the sides.
- Reduce the sauce. Remove the lamb from the pan using a slotted spoon, and keep warm by covering in a double layer of tin foil. Turn the heat up to high and boil rapidly to reduce the cooking liquid to a thick sauce – about 15 minutes. Stir frequently towards the end to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Return the lamb to the casserole, and mix until evenly coated in sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes to ensure the meat is piping hot.
- Transfer into a serving dish and serve hot.