Culinary legend, Charmaine Solomon OAM, was a regular and hugely popular guest at the cooking school that I co-owned once upon a time. Whenever Charmaine presented a cookery class, together with her late husband, Reuben, you knew the event would be a crowd pleaser.
One of the dishes Charmaine presented over the years was her lamb roghan josh or lamb with spices and yoghurt. Tender morsels of lamb shoulder, slow cooked in a smorgasbord of spices including chillies, ginger, coriander, cumin, poppy seeds, fennel, cardamom, cloves, mace, garam masala and turmeric – smothered in a rich sauce with tomatoes, coconut, almonds and yoghurt. Yum! No other words are needed, really.
My recipe has been adapted from Charmaine's Complete Asian Cookbook. Knowing Charmaine, I feel certain that she and her daughters, Nina and Debbie, won't mind that I have shared the recipe on Good Things.
If you don't have a well stocked spice box, the list of ingredients might seem a little daunting, but please know that the resulting flavours are well worth the investment. I like to serve this dish with steamed basmati rice and chapatis. Watch this space for a quick and easy chapatis recipe, coming soon.
You might also enjoy reading my interview with Charmaine in 2011, when the revised edition of the best selling Complete Asian Cookbook was released.
CHARMAINE SOLOMON'S LAMB IN SPICES AND YOGHURT
(Lamb roghan josh)
3 dried red chillies (seeds removed) or 2 fresh bird's eye chillies, deseeded and sliced
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons blanched almonds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons ghee or peanut oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
750g boned leg or shoulder of lamb, cubed
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, chopped
If you are using dried chillies, soak them in half a cup of boiling water for five minutes, then drain well, but reserve the liquid they were soaked in.
Combine the garlic, ginger, desiccated coconut, almonds and chillies into a food processor with the reserved soaking liquid and blend to a smooth paste. If using fresh chillies, add a little water to the mix. Leave them in the bowl of the processor for now.
In a small frying pan, toast the ground coriander, cumin, poppy seeds and fennel over a low heat for a few short minutes, until the aromas are released. Take care not to burn the spices. Add these spices to the chilli paste mix in the food processor and whizz until smooth and thoroughly combined. Using a spatula or large spoon, transfer this mixture to a bowl, then add the cardamom, cloves, mace and pepper. Set aside for the moment.
Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy-based pan, or wok, over a low heat. Add the onion and cook gently, stirring, until the onion is golden brown and softened. Add the cardamom pods, turmeric and chilli paste to the pan or wok, and cook until the oils separate from the spices.
Now add the yoghurt, a little at a time, stirring to combine. Add the chopped tomatoes and the salt, and cook for up to five minutes longer. Now add the lamb and cook it over a high heat, stirring to brown the meat evenly on all sides. Lower the heat, pop a lid on the pan, and cook gently for an hour or more until the lamb is melt-in-the-mouth tender and the liquids have reduced. During this cooking time, stir gently every so often to ensure that the spices don't catch on the bottom of the pan. Add just a little extra water if needed, but don't overdo it.
Finally, sprinkle the garam masala over the top of the rogan josh, cover and cook for five minutes more. Sprinkle with the fresh coriander and serve with rice. Serves 6. As always, the dish will be more flavoursome the day after it is made.
Tell me dear readers, do you enjoy spicy dishes? What is your favourite among them? Do please tell. And thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment. You know I love hearing from you. xox
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.