Rogan Josh: Kashmiri Lamb

Rogan Josh is a rich, succulent lamb dish, particularly wonderful during the winter months. Lamb is a seldom made meat at my home, but when it is a contender for the main course, the entire family gets involved in deciding how it will be prepared. Roasted, kebabs or a curry-like entrée…we’ve made them all, and enjoyed them all with equal enthusiasm. Of all of them, Rogan Josh is a rich and hearty dish and an all-time favorite, and particularly preferred when someone is recovering from an illness.

This particular recipe is an adaptation of the classic Kashmiri delicacy where I make one key departure: I marinate the protein. Marinating the protein infuses the spices and flavors better and makes it easier to cook. For a meat-free option, use paneer instead. I also choose a leaner cut of lamb, as the fat adds flavor but does not take any of the spices and is not as delicious as the cuts of meat themselves that have stewed in the sauces.

The warm and meaty nature of this dish lends itself to pair well with a sweet Port, that we typically sip with our dinner. It breaks up the acidity of the sauce with its sweetness and also boosts the meatiness of the succulent lamb.

Wine4Food recommends Point & Line John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir. Its concentrated aromas of violets and rose buds and flavors of blackberry compliment this rich and complex dish.

Makes: Twelve servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes plus marinating time
Cook Time: up to 2 hours

Ingredients

Marinade

1½ tbsp ginger paste
1½ tbsp garlic paste
1½ tbsp cayenne pepper powder
1 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
2½ lbs boned lamb shoulder or leg cut into 1″ cubes

Sauce

¼ cup oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
10 green cardamom pods
2 Indian bay leaves
10 cloves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2″ cinnamon stick
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1½ tsp coriander powder
1½ tsp cumin powder
1½ tbsp cayenne pepper powder
1 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
1 cup of crushed tomatoes; do not use roasted or seasoned tomatoes
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1½ cups water
¼ cup fresh mint leaves or cilantro leaves

Garnish:

Sliced scallions
Pomegranate arils

Directions

Pre-Prep

In a small mixing bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Pour this into a large zip-top bag. Place the cubed meat pieces into this bag, close it firmly, and toss well. Marinate for 4-8 hours, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.

Method

Heat 2-4 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat in small batches along with the marinade into the pot and allow each batch to brown; set aside. If using paneer, cook lightly until the edges are seared; set aside.

Add a few more tablespoons of oil to the saucepan and add the onions. Cook them until they are golden brown. Add the cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon, and stir for 30 seconds. The cloves will puff up and the bay leaves will begin to change color. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper powders, and stir-fry for another ½ minute. Add yogurt, stir, and cook for a minute to evaporate the water. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir in, and let the sauce thicken. Add the par-cooked meat (or paneer) and any of the juices that may have drained from it along with 1¼ cups of water. Bring to a boil, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to ensure the spices are always in the liquid. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes (for paneer) to an hour (for meat) until it is tender. Add more water as needed and stir often to prevent from sticking. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook away some of the liquids until the sauce reaches a desired thickness. In the final 5 minutes of cooking, garnish with fresh mint leaves or cilantro leaves.

Garnish with cilantro leaves, and scallions. Serve with freshly made steamed Basmati rice. Pomegranate arils may be sprinkled over the rice or the stew.

Nandita Godbole is an Atlanta-based freelancing food writer and an indie author of several cookbooks, whose readers reside in more than 30-countries globally. She most often writes about two of her favorite things: simple, flavorful, and holistic Indian food, and about family: the joys and complexities of delicate personal relationships. In the past 15 years, through her work, she shares the diverse culinary riches of India to uncover and rediscover intricate and unique layers of culture and identity. Nandita grew up in Bombay, in the city before it became Mumbai, India, which makes her easily nostalgic. Somewhere between her memories of her old home, her new home and kitchen, and her musings, she plays the roles of mom, chauffeur, chief do-it-all-er, and the absentminded gardener.