Nothing says welcome home to me as much as the heady perfume of a languidly cooked lamb curry, one that’s been muttering and grumbling away on the back burner for several hours. The scent immediately reminds me of eyeballing Mr Taj and his blood stained apron from behind the folds of my mother’s sari. I’d watch him, with the vaguely comforting smell of raw flesh in my nostrils as he’d casually feed a carefully selected leg through the electric saw, the searing whine of bone on metal a distant echo of the abattoir.
Several hours later my brother and I would relish the yielding velvet of garlicky flesh disintegrating beneath our tiny, greedy fingers, scooped up with hot flaky parathas. We’d fight over the precious pieces of rich bone marrow left in the pot, teasing them out with the ends of teaspoons and feasting on the spicy, buttery rewards.
I’ve made this with lamb but the spicing lends itself equally well to beef or mutton. Kitchuri (the origin of “kedgeree”) is a fantastic foil, a lightly spiced lentil and rice dish, it’s the ultimate comfort dish in Bengali cuisine, however it’s also one that I’ve never come across on any restaurant menu.
400g bone in leg of lamb, mutton or beef diced
1 tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 large tub of natural yoghurt
1 heaped tsp blade mace
2 inches of ginger
4 cloves of garlic
4 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 heaped tsp salt
– Grind the cumin and coriander seeds to a rough powder. Combine with the turmeric, chilli powder, yoghurt and meat. Allow the flavours to marry for at least an hour, preferably overnight
– In a blender/food processor blitz the onions, ginger and garlic down to a paste
-Heat the oil in a large pan and add the whole cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and mace until they release their fragrance and the oil is sufficiently tempered
– Add the pureed alliums, ginger and salt and fry until just golden
-Add the yoghurt and meat mixture and continue to cook over a medium-high heat until the meat has browned somewhat, this will take about 5-10 mins
-Introduce the water and turn the heat down low. Leave to simmer for approximately 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary to produce a lush, aromatic gravy, the meat should just be slipping off the bones.
50g split mung beans
50g red lentils
50g yellow split peas
2 peeled cloves of garlic
100g basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
1/2 head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tomato, diced
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp butter/ghee
salt and sugar, to taste
1 litre vegetable stock
– Dry fry the mung beans, rice and lentils in a hot pan until lightly toasted. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf and stock and bring to a boil.
– Add the whole garlic cloves, reduce the heat and simmer covered, for 30 minutes. Take off the stove and set aside to steam for a further 20 minutes
-Meanwhile, heat the butter or ghee in a separate pan and fry the potatoes, cauliflower florets and onions for about 6 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
-Reduce the heat and gently fry the ginger, cumin, tomato and chillies. Season with salt and sugar and continue frying until aromatic.
– Return the rice and lentils to a medium-high heat and stir-in the vegetables and spices.
-Once the mixture boils, reduce to a simmer then cover and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.