Lamb Curry

The basic, classic, and altogether Indian dish, far simpler to make than you might think.
TIME 1½ to 2½ hours, mostly unattended
MAKES 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless or 3 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground
2 tablespoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cayenne, optional
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water, or more as needed
½ cup yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1 Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add about half of the meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, adjusting the heat and turning the pieces as needed so the meat doesn’t burn, until it’s nicely browned on all sides, 10 to 20 minutes. As the meat browns, transfer it to a platter and continue adding, seasoning, and cooking pieces until all the meat is browned.

2 Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion, sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, and cayenne if you’re using it and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3 Stir in the stock, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot; add the browned meat. The braising liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the meat; if it doesn’t, add more liquid. Raise the heat and bring to a boil; then lower it so that the mixture barely bubbles. Cover and cook, stirring every 30 minutes and adding small amounts of liquid if necessary, until the meat slides off a fork, at least 45 minutes and more likely up to 90.

4 If the curry looks too watery, remove the lid, raise the heat a bit, and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens. If it looks too dry, add a little more stock or water and raise the heat until bubbly. Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with the cilantro, and serve.

  • Chicken Curry with Vegetables: In Step 1, replace the lamb shoulder with about 3 pounds bone-in chicken parts. Follow the recipe, but in Step 3, after the mixture has cooked for about 15 minutes, add 1 pound waxy red or white potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks, and 3 large or 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks. When the chicken and vegetables are tender, in 20 to 30 minutes, stir in 1 cup fresh or frozen peas. Continue with the recipe.
  • Lamb or Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk: In Step 2, pour off all the fat after the lamb is browned and cook the sliced onion in 3 tablespoons butter. In Step 4, use 1 can coconut milk instead of the stock and skip the yogurt in Step 4. If the curry starts to look dry as it cooks, add stock or water.

  • Lamb shoulder is just like pork shoulder: fatty. Use already cut stew meat if that’s easier for you to find. To get whole shoulder, you’ll probably need to visit a butcher. If you’re cutting the meat yourself, trim big pieces of fat away as you make the chunks, being careful not to remove too much of the lean at the same time.

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