”Sikhs seem to be immaculately turned out: smart clothes, sensible shoes, trim beards, tidy turbans and always a welcoming smile. Balwant Singh was no exception. Charming, full of great information about choosing the right cut of mutton for this curry, and then cooking a most immaculate example of it for us outside on a sunny day. He took us to where his father had set up refugee camps on their family land and cooked this curry to give the displaced people a taste of home cooking. I've used lamb shoulder, with goat as an option; you could also use lamb neck fillet” Ingredients
Serves 4 - 6
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (from about 8 green pods) 4-6 cloves 3 medium onions 200g tomatoes 50g/10 cloves garlic 20g/4cm ginger 75ml vegetable oil or 75g ghee 100ml thick Greek-style yogurt 700g boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 4cm pieces, or 1kg goat on the bone, cut into 7cm pieces 1 tsp salt 1 tsp Garam masala (see below) 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder 1 tbsp single cream Chapatis to serve
1. Grind the cardamom and cloves into a powder; set aside.
2. In stages, using a mini food processor and rinsing out in between, roughly chop the onions then blend to a purée with a little water; roughly chop then purée the tomatoes; roughly chop then blend the garlic and ginger with a tablespoon of water to a slack paste.
3. Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy-based casserole pan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion paste for 10-15 minutes until golden, then add the ginger and garlic and fry for 3 minutes. Stir in the yogurt, then add the meat and salt and cook over a low-medium heat for 20-30 minutes until browned. Stir in the garam masala and chilli powder, and after about 30 seconds pour over enough water to just cover the meat. Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.
4. Stir the cream and puréed tomatoes into the lamb, followed by the cardamom and clove mix. To seal the pan, first cover with foil, then a lid. Cook over the lowest heat for 30-40 minutes until the lamb is tender. Serve with chapatis.
Keeps for about 1 month
“This is my own garam masala recipe, which is essentially a balanced combination of the most popular spices. Even more important than the mix is having them freshly roasted and ground. I can't stress too strongly how much better it is to make your own garam masala than to buy it. You may be astonished about the number of times garam masala turns up in the book; sometimes it's the only spice in a dish. But this mixture represents perfect balance to me.”
1 tbsp black peppercorns 2 tbsp cumin seeds 2 tbsp coriander seeds 2 tsp cardamom seeds (from 30-40 green pods) 4 tsp whole cloves 7cm piece of cinnamon stick 1 whole nutmeg
Roast all the spices apart from the nutmeg in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until toasted and aromatic. Cool. Grate the nutmeg and add to a spice grinder along with whole spices (you might want to break up the cinnamon stick) and grind everything to a fine powder. Store in a sealed container out of the sunlight; it will keep its most aromatic condition for a month.
LITTLE TIPS, BIG DIFFERENCE
The spices (step 1):
Buy your spices wherever it is easiest and most convenient, says Rick, who gets his from a combination of speciality stores and supermarkets.
If you want the best flavours and most authentic results, buy them whole and grind them yourself using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (but not one you've used for coffee) when you are about to start cooking. "Think of the seeds like loose-leaf tea and the preground spice like a tea bag," Rick says.
"Seeds are better."
Also regularly check use-by dates to ensure you've got the freshest spices possible.
The onions (step 2):
A blender or mini-food processor is perfect for chopping onions for curry sauces. If your blender is light (cheaper plastic versions generally fall into this category), you can add a little water to the jug and shake the blender.
Rick acknowledges "it's not orthodox" but it is the best way to get paste and give the final gravy a smooth texture.
"Also make sure you cook out the onions properly," Rick advises.
"You need to drive out the water and you'll know that's done when all the steam's gone and the onions are just golden."
+ The cooking process (steps 3 & 4):
"I've never seen an Indian curry where you're required to brown the meat first," Rick says.
"Red-meat curries like this lamb one need to be cooked slowly and for a decent amount of time. "This cooks the connective tissue so it tenderises and forms into gelatine, which then thickens up the sauce and gives the stew body."