Some may regard Rogan Josh as the epitome of Indian Lamb curries. You would be hard bent not to find it as a regular offering at your local Indian takeaway or restaurant menu. It is the Butter Chicken of lamb dishes, for the Western world anyway! Obviously due to its popularity, the dish has gone through countless iterations and ingredients can vary slightly, depending on who you speak to. The origins of the dish are notably from Persia and it was introduced to the Mogul kings in the Kashmir region of India. Persian influenced dishes are favourably sweeter that the usual hot curries conjured up in the sub-continent's many kitchens. Unlike many other dishes that get their sweetness from dried fruits and ultimately - the addition of sugar, Rogan Josh lends its sweet notes from the aromatic spices in its list of ingredients. The name of the dish translates loosely to describe something "cooked in oil under intense heat". I feel this is actually more of a misnomer than an explanation, as I am pretty sure most Indian curries are cooked in oil and under heat. Nevertheless, the name has stuck and is firmly imprinted onto palates worldwide, none more so than an old colleague of mine who practically kept the local Indian takeaway in business by his frequent ordering of this dish repeatedly. I promised him about a year ago I would get him a good recipe for Rogan Josh, so I hope it's not to late and he still reads my blog. Here is my version of Rogan Josh or better named Sweet and Spicy Lamb - Nah! Doesn't have the same ring to it!
1.2kg x Lamb, with bone, cut into rough chunks
1 tsp x Green Cardamom
2 pods x Black Cardamom
1 tsp x Black Peppercorns
1 tsp x Fennel Seeds
1 tsp x Cinnamon powder
3 whole x Dried Kashmiri Chillies (substitute 2 tsp x paprika)
2 tbsp x Ghee
2 x Bay Leaves
2 pods x Black Cardamom
1 stick x Cinnamon
4 x Onions, finely chopped
4 cloves x Garlic, crushed
1 inch piece x Ginger, grated
2 tsp x Garam Masala
2 tsp x Sweet Paprika
1 tbsp x Salt
1 cup x Natural Yoghurt, extra half cup if required
1 cup x Water
1 bunch, Coriander leaves
Combine the seeds of the green and black cardamom with the peppercorns, fennel seed, cinnamon, and dry chillies in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
Grind to a fine powder and rub over the lamb pieces, allow to stand for at least an hour
In a wide frypan or wok heat the ghee then add the bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon, fry for 30 seconds
Add the onions and fry, stirring frequently, until they are dark and caramelised - do not burn!
Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 2 minutes then add the paprika and salt
If the mixture starts to dry add a little water to retain a little moisture as you fry
Place the lamb into the wok, folding the curry mixture through it
Pour in the yoghurt a little at a time, incorporating it gradually
Add a little water if required to just cover the lamb, stir to combine then bring to the boil
This is now the time to transfer the lamb and spices to a heavy pot to slow cook it in
Turn heat down and simmer covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom catching
In the final 5 minutes of cooking add the coriander leaves and stir through.
Serve with piping hot naan bread or a bed of basmati rice.
"As mentioned before there are a probably hundred ways to make Rogan Josh and who's to know the correct one - possibly a native! This recipe follows the traditional spice and yoghurt ingredients typical of Persian cuisine. Some variations include tomatoes and tomato paste which gives the dish a different taste again due to the acidity. I have also come across a recipe which does not use onions and this impacts the overall sweetness."