How to Make a Great
Lamb or Mutton Curry

A method developed over years of trial and error easy, reliable, adaptable and widely praised as delicious

This recipe is based on the Meat Curry Masala package produced by the MDH company in India and exported worldwide. Underneath the words "Meat Curry Masala" it says "Spice blend for Mutton Curry", followed by the same thing in French.

There are many other good manufacturers of ready-mixed meat masala, for example Laziza and Jalpur make perfectly good products, but each will have subtle differences of taste, and if you want completely repeatable results it's better to stick to one easily available brand and get to know it well. In fact any medium strength curry powder will work in this recipe, but do use a reputable brand such as Schwartz (Medium or Madras) and not some unknown store "own brand".

If you wish you can simply follow the instructions on the MDH package, but this will produce a very hot, rather oily curry that is probably highly authentic but a bit strong for Western taste. In fact this product is adjusted to Asian taste, and for most of us it's best to use about one quarter of the package content, even for a large (four or five person) curry.

What you need for a curry to serve four or five

1.5 lbs (680 gms) lean lamb or mutton

2 medium onions

3 medium tomatoes

1 tin chopped tomatoes

3 medium size cloves of garlic

1 small potato

About 1 oz (30 gms) finely chopped coriander leaves

4 medium size mushrooms (optional)

One quarter of the contents of one
package of MDH Meat Curry Masala

0.5 UK pint (10 fluid ounces, 300 ml)
strong mutton or mixed meat stock

About three tablespoons (1.5 fluid
ounces, 45 ml) oil for frying

Here's what you do. Remove any excess fat from the meat and cut into cubes of about 1.25" (3 cm) side length. chop the onions into cubes about 0.5" (1.3 cm) side length and add the garlic, either crushed or finely chopped. I always remove the garlic skin as it has an unpleasant texture, even after much cooking. Peel the potato and cut into cubes of about 0.75" (2.0 cm) side length. Peel the tomatoes using the boiling water method (leave them in boiling water for a minute or so and the skins will almost fall off), discard the skins, and cut each peeled tomato into about four segments.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and fry together the meat cubes, chopped onion, crushed garlic, cubed potato and the meat masala. Remember, about one quarter of the contents of the silver foil package is enough, or about one level tablespoon of generic curry powder. Fry gently, stirring all the time, until the onion is see-through and everything has gone yellow from the turmeric in the masala mix. It's important not to burn the spices at this stage. Long and slow is better than fast and furious.

Transfer everything to a good-sized casserole with an oven-proof lid. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes, peeled tomato pieces, and if you like, some roughly chopped mushrooms. Stir thoroughly, replace the lid and place in the middle of the preheated oven at Gas Mk 2 (150 Celsius, 200 Farenheit).

It's only now that you need to think about what kind of meat you're using. If it's good quality lamb the dish will be ready to serve in about one and three-quarter hours. If it's mutton you should consider three hours the minimum, and it won't matter if you add another for good measure. With mutton, you should turn the heat down to about Gas Mk 1 (140 Celsius, 275 Farenheit) after the first two hours, mainly to avoid over-cooking the potato pieces.

Add the chopped coriander leaves just before serving and stir. Serve with white rice and/or nan bread, and fresh green salad.

Variations to Try

You can add red or green peppers at the frying stage, and almost any root vegetable such as carrot or turnip, cut into cubes. Beware of strong-tasting vegetables, which may spoil the taste of the dish. Shallots may be added, peeled and halved. If there is a spice that you particularly like that I haven't included, such as cumin, dried coriander or fenugreek, try adding a tiny amount of it to a spoonful of the curry and taste to make sure you like the effect before adding it to the whole dish. Generally speaking, you won't improve on the flavour of the basic MDH masala.

If you discover that you have used a bit too much masala mix and the curry is too spicy, you can cool it down by adding lemon juice, a little at a time, which neutralises the alkaline hotness of the dried chili. It will also modify the taste slightly, but not in an unpleasant way.

Please email me if you have tried this curry and give me feedback on your experiences.