My new friend M (and no, she is not called Mary) from Argentina and her Mum were coming over for lunch. I did not have to rake my brains to know that their cuisine has strong resemblance to Latin American cuisines. And thanks to all the lessons in school in Geography, I knew that Argentina was also one of the biggest producers (and consumers) of meat.
Okay, so I had the basics right! Now for the harsh realities. M wanted to eat Indian.
Meat. Indian. Spices. Heat…I wasn’t quite sure if I was willing to take a risk on spicy Indian cooking I am so used to.
When you are unsure about the palates of your guests, its best to stick to the minimum. Sometimes less is just more!
And if you have forgotten about cooking sans spices and chili peppers, its time to remember Lamb Rogan Josh. A lamb dish from Kashmir with very mild flavors which are agreeable to all palates, well almost. Or I was just about to find out…My foundation were these lamb shoulders with enough marbling to them. The thing about choosing lamb for traditional Kashmiri Rogan Josh is that the meat has to have a lot of fat. Sorry, but I am yet to encounter a low-fat version of it.
Ingredients for Lamb Rogan Josh:
1 kg lamb (with bones)
2 tablespoon Vegetable oil
2-3 Black cardamoms
2-3 Green cardamoms
1 inch Cinnamon stick
10-12 Black peppercorns
Half teaspoon Asafetida
2 tablespoon Fennel powder
1 tablespoon Dry ginger powder
1 tablespoon Coriander powder
Half tablespoon Black pepper powder
1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder
1 cup plain yogurt, gently beaten
Begin by cutting the lamb into small one inch pieces. Heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan/ Dutch oven. Add asafetida, cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns and green and black cardamoms. Sauté till fragrant. Add lamb pieces. Here I will use the classic Indian cooking technique of slowly frying the meat on medium heat. Stir constantly till lamb pieces turn a nice reddish brown color.
If you are someone who times the process of cooking, I would say a top of 10-15 minutes of medium-slow cooking the meat will get the color we desire for the Rogan Josh.
Add Kashmiri red chili powder, black pepper powder, fennel powder, dry ginger powder, and coriander powder. Add the beaten yogurt and two cups of water. While you are adding the liquids, turn the heat to the lowest mark. We don’t want the yogurt to curdle on high heat. Add salt to taste.
Cook, covered, till lamb is tender, stirring occasionally. You reach the finish line when the mutton is tender and the oil surfaces. I served it hot with Basmati rice.
M was gracious in her praises for me and the Lamb Rogan Josh. And quickly asked me to write the recipe for her. For the lunch I served, I earned myself a quick invite to some homemade Empanadas and wine.
While M’s Mother (on a short trip to TO), who barely spoke any English continued to take turns to smile, nod and eat her payesh. The only words from her I managed to understand and keep with me are Gracias Señora!
I knew I was going to keep that smile and the gracias for a long, long time. After all its not everyday that I get thanked for the food I cook.
I made this same recipe another day. Photos and comments are here.