Dry Indian Lamb Curry

Sunday, July 21, 2013

An Italian cook once said, "Every risotto is only one risotto." By that he meant that risotto is never the same twice.

When it comes to curries, echoing the Italian's words, "every curry is only one curry."

This is my approach to curry-making and it depends on what is available in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago, my Mum-in-law dug out a whole piece of lamb shoulder that has been freezing in her fridge for more than a year. Indeed, Mary (her name is Margaret!) had a little lamb, little lamb which was as frozen as a rock. You can throw this lamb at someone and knock him out cold.

So, pondering on what to do with it, curry seemed like the logical option. If it is not fresh, have it curried.

I love dry mutton curry because I think it is a perfect match for some good pieces of roti prata. Cut bite-sized, you can wrap the roti around it. If the meat is just right (not overly soft) and the curry is infused with spices and the glorious flavor of lamb/mutton, every prata-wrapped bite will make you bleat.

Looking at this piece of lamb shoulder (has more fat than leg of lamb), I knew it would make for a good curry.

A good curry starts with fresh spices. Unless I have grounded ones which are fresh (and like the way coffee powder is in our weather), I almost always use seeds. The combi of coriander-cumin seeds always work (ratio - 2:1). Add some fennel if you like. As for herbs, ginger will work well with mutton/lamb. The body of the curry will be shallots and garlic of course (ratio - 2:1). Sweating the onions will be key to a good curry. Then you will need chilli of course. You can buy pre-grounded chilli paste (from dried chillies) but soaking and blending your dried chillies is not difficult.

A bit of turmeric for the colour. Fresh turmeric is a lot stronger and raw in its taste and I do not recommend it if you do not like turmeric to overpower other flavours, especially in Indian curies. Use powder instead. If you have some ghee, use it.

Here is the recipe at a glance:

Dry Lamb Curry Recipe

2 kilo of lamb (Shoulder or Leg)
2t coriander seeds
1t cumin seeds
1t fennel seeds
3 pieces of star aniseed.
a piece of ginger (about 3-inch)
30 shallots
15 pieces garlic
Curry leaves
30 pieces of dried chillies
some yoghurt
half a rice bowl of oil or ghee

  1. Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes. 
  2. Toast the spice seeds and blend.
  3. Blend the garlic, onion and ginger into a paste.
  4. Heat up some oil (or ghee) in a pot or wok. 
  5. Add the paste, blended spices and aniseed. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and sugar (you may need to add more later). Add some chilli paste. I think Indian curries need some "kick" and you should not be afraid to add more at this stage. It depends on what type of dried chillies you are using. 
  6. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add some water if the mixture is too dry.
  7. Add some curry leaves.  
  8. Add the pieces of of lamb.
  9. Add some a glass of water and simmer (keep fire low) for 45 minutes or more, tasting along the way to get the flavour balance and texture right. If you are adding peeled yellow potatoes, do it mid way. 
  10. Add some yoghurt to the curry. This adds some sourness and cream to the curry. More or less is up to you. 
  11. Add salt and sugar to adjust the taste. Note: If your curry is not salty enough, the flavours won't come well together. 
Lamb Shoulder

This curry gets better with time. Serve it slightly warm (not hot). Garnish with some coriander leaves.

Use basmati rice. A cold cucumber or tomato raita will be good. Some papadum of course.

If you are crazy enough to make your own prata, go ahead. My crazy Ieat friend, Dr Leslie, has a good recipe.

Making a good curry is not difficult. And the more you make them, the better you will get.

Simmering the paste
A finished wok of lamb curry
Cucumber & tomato raita

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  1. Terry, I have been your silent reader for quite a while now. I love how you make every recipe seems so easy to attempt but yet, look simply delicious. I will attempt this dry lamb curry soon, it looks very good!

  2. Hi Grace - Thanks and most welcome.

  3. Hi, I tried this recipe last night and it's delicious. Next time I might add chunky fried onions part way through the cooking.
    Thanks! Joan