Friday, July 5, 2013

Spice Dream- Lamb Korma

I haven't made a curry in a while. I miss it. I miss the aroma of roasting spices. I miss the hissing of frying onions. I miss rice and curry. I know the family does too. I defrost some lamb. Some say it tastes gamey. Could be. It does have a stronger flavors than beef or chicken. The family likes their lamb with bones, especiallly bones with marrow. Nalli as its called in Hindi, usually ends up on my husband's plate. Mutton would be my meat of choice. The halal butchers are a half hour ride away and the lamb sits in my freezer. Easy choice! 

As it is when I cook meat, I open a plethora of cookbooks. Always a pleasurable chore. You know how you have a handful of recipes you know by heart. They are the ones you go to when you don't have enough time, or it is the first recipe that comes to mind, or it is the easy way out that you don't want to think up something complicated. That is not the case today . Today I feel like eating something I havent had before. I reject a few recipes that call for grated fresh coconut. The grated coconut is hard as rock in my freezer. Of course I am very "grateful"for having this essential iingredient in my freezer! Gone are the days when I had to crack open a fresh coconut, clamp on the unwieldy coconut grater and freeze finely grated coconut for a rainy day. Nowadays you can find frozen grated coconut, frozen sliced coconut chips, frozen coconut strips at Indian grocery stores. Coconut every which way you can!!! A decade ago I was buying bearded brown coconuts by the handful. Now it's an easy reach into the freezer! But as I haven't defrosted any. I find a recipe using dried coconut. Much easier. and tastes just as good.

Korma is a North Indian version of curry. It usually calls for some kind of nut paste. Since nuts are taboo for my kids I omit them. The kitchen is redolent with the aroma of freshly ground spices. Lamb gets a mini marinade session in yogurt.  Onions sizzle, garlic splutters and the spice paste gets a workout in the pressure pan. I'm using a pressure pan because its faster than letting the lamb cook stovetop. I will sacrifice some texture issues but it is late and I need to get going! It's 15 minutes in a pressure cooker versus 45 minutes stovetop!! 

Lamb Korma
Serves 4 people

1 pound Lamb shoulder (see Notes)
1/2 cup Yogurt
3 tablespoons Canola oil
1 cup Cilantro
3 green Chiles
5 cloves of Garlic
4 thin coins of Ginger
2 tablespoons whole Coriander seeds
1 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 cup dried flaked unsweetened Coconut
1/2 cup Water
2 large Onion
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 cup Water
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
Cilantro to garnish 

Wash, trim fat and cut the lamb into 1 inch chunks. Keep some meat on the bones. Do use the bones as they provide an intense flavor to the gravy. 

Whisk yogurt in a bowl and mix in lamb pieces. Keep aside for 30 minutes.

Start on the spice paste. Peel garlic.

Trim and cut green chiles into 1 inch pieces.

Peel ginger slices.

Put garlic, cilantro, green chiles, coriander seeds, chile powder, turmeric powder and coconut in a blender with the 1/2 cup of water. Grind till you have a smooth paste. You might have to push the paste down in the  blender a few times. You could use a food processor too. I find the blender gives the paste a smoother texture. The spice mixture should be thick, not liquidy.

Peel and thinly slice the onions.

Heat canola oil in a pressure cooker. If you are not using a pressure cooker, a Dutch oven or deep sided heavy bottomed saucepan will work just as well. ( look at NOTES for directions)

Add sliced onion to hot oil and let the onions get golden brown.

Add the spice paste in at this point, lower heat and let the spice paste sauté well for 5 minutes. You should be able to see small oil bubbles in the bottom of the pan. It's the oil separating from the spice paste. 

At this point the lamb goes in now along with the remaining water and salt. 

Let the gravy come a boil. Put the pressure cooker lid on and cover the opening with the whistle contraption. You are supposed to wait until steam rises from the opening and then close the opening. But I am a veteran of many pressure cooker disasters and have learnt to place the whistle on top of the opening right from the start. 

The whistle will wiggle and let out a piercing whistle-like sound. Now turn the flame to the lowest point  and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. 

Turn off the flame after 15 minutes and let the pressure cooker sit for another 10 minutes to decompress. If you are in a real hurry, run some cold water over the pressure cooker for 3 to 5 minutes and then open the top.

Open carefully as a lot of steam will escape.

Sprinkle garam masala and cilantro and serve the curry with either rice or roti.


I use lamb shoulder steaks, either the round bone or shoulder bone cuts. You could use lamb neck but I think it is too fatty. Trim the fat and cut the lamb into chunks. Use the bones especially with meat attached to it. The meat tastes wonderful cooked on the bone.

As I said , you don't have to use a pressure cooker. If you cook the lamb stovetop, just add more water and cover tightly. Lower the flame to medium and stir the curry now and them. It should take 40 - 45 minutes. I find the texture of lamb cooked this way a little different. The meat tends to shred better.

I have had many mishaps with my pressure cooker! But I still persevere. It really is the fastest way to put a lamb or mutton curry on the table. Presurre cookers come in a broad spectrum of sizes, shapes and work ethics! I use a Prestige Pressure Pan. Amazon sells them in the US. It is kind of old world style, not like the modern Fagor. Just follow the manuals and you should be fine.

Mutton takes the same time to cook as lamb.

The korma is a great make-ahead curry. You could make it two days ahead and keep it in the fridge. Refresh with cilantro just before you serve it.

Rice is steaming. Phulkas are rolled and flame puffed. Marrow spoons sit by plates. Oh yes, in India we have special stainless steel devices to dig out tasty marrow bits.


You cant really call it a spoon, more a slender, flat, steel skewer, able to penetrate the narrow bones. I forgo a fork and spoon for the primal utensil, my fingers. I am sure it will be a finger-licking meal.