I guess if you live in parts of the world that don’t have proper summers you wouldn’t understand that in Australia there are often long periods of those months where you simply can’t cook. It is too hot for both the process and the result. After a while you long for the cold and the possibilities of cooking that become so much wider. Now as winter begins in Melbourne curries are very much on my brain.
This book changed my life. It was the first cookbook I read that explained the processes going on. Why do you fry the onions this much and not that? Why fry the yoghurt until all the water in it has disappeared and then add water? I love to understand what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, so this book was a revelation to me. I was about thirty when Claire gave it to me, and before long I became a ‘good’ cook, though it was still a long time before I learned how to cook toast. I can see that to some extent the reason for the depth of explanation in this book is that Indian cooking is by far and away the most profound, complex food in the world. The average Italian cookbook, in retrospect, I understand says nothing much about process because there really isn’t much to say. A few basic rules to be repeated over and over, if I may generalise. Indian cooking could not be more different.
This recipe was the first Indian dish I made. Rogan Josh. The most important thing to take note of is the gradual incorporation of the yoghurt, ensuring each spoonful is blended in very well before continuing with the next. It is this that ensures you don’t get a separated/curdled sort of result. Patience! There is no point rushing this. And, please. Full fat yoghurt, not that horrible stuff that’s like dishwater.
As usual with Indian meat dishes, make extra and freeze. It’s silly not to.
Red lamb or beef stew: Rogan Josh
2 hrs 20 mins
• 2 x 2.5 cm ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 8 cloves garlic, peeled
• 4 tbsp water, plus 300-450ml
• 10 tbsp vegetable oil
• 900 g boned shoulder or leg of lamb, or stewing beef (chuck) cut into 2.5cm cubes
• 10 cardamom pods
• 2 bay leaves
• 6 cloves
• 10 peppercorns
• 2.5 cm cinnamon sticks
• 200g onions, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 2 tsp ground cumin
• 4 tsp bright red paprika, mixed with 0.25-1 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1.25 tsp salt
• 6 tbsp natural yogurt
• 0.25 tsp garam masala
• freshly ground black pepper
1. Put the ginger, garlic and 4 tbsp water into the container of an electric blender. Blend well until you have a smooth paste.
2. Heat the oil in a wide heavy pan over a medium-high heat. Brown the meat cubes in several batches and set to one side. Put the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon into the same hot oil. Stir once and wait until the cloves swell and the bay leaves begin to take on colour. This just takes a few seconds. Now put in the onions. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onion turn a medium-brown colour. Put in the ginger-garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds. Then add the coriander, cumin, paprika-cayenne and salt. Stir and fry for another 30 seconds. Add the fried meat cubes and juices, Stir for 30 seconds. Now put in 1 tbsp of the yogurt. Stir and fry for about 30 seconds or until the yogurt is well blended. Add the remaining yogurt, a tablespoon at a time as before. Stir and fry for 3-4 minutes.
3. Now add 300ml water if you are cooking lamb and 450ml if you are cooking beef. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil, scraping in all browned spices on the sides and bottom of the pan. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for about an hour for the lamb and 2 hours for beef, or until the meat is tender. (It could be baked, covered, in a pre-heated 180C/gas 4 oven for the same length of time or until tender.) Every 10 minutes or so, give the meat a good stir. When the meat is tender, take off the lid, turn the heat up to medium and boil away some of the liquid. You should end up with tender meat in a think, reddish-brown sauce. Spoon off the fat. Sprinkle garam masala and black pepper over the meat before you serve and mix them in.
Many of the recipes in this book are now a regular part of my Indian cooking. I can’t recommend it highly enough for somebody starting out who needs to be spoonfed. But that’s not to say you won’t get a lot out of it if you are experienced. It’s a classic.