There are many myths surrounding Indian food. It is difficult to prepare. It requires a large and costly initial investment in special ingredients. It is fiery hot and inedible. None of these beliefs are true. Indian food is easy to cook and requires no extraordinary culinary skills. It need not be hot and, speaking personally, fiery curries have never much appealed to me. Ten to fifteen euro should be sufficient to purchase the key ingredients and no obscure, oriental, kitchen utensils are called for.
Apart from the culinary joy of eating Indian food, it has other great advantages. It can be re-heated easily and it freezes very well. It is also the perfect way of entertaining amixed group of vegetarians and meat eaters. Indeed on such social occasions, you will often hear the vegetarians complain that the carnivores are eating “their” non-meat dishes. A carnivore myself, I have drawn such complaints and for this I make no apology. What dedicated meat eater would not be tempted by the range of pulse and vegetable dishes, which are such a key component of Indian cuisine ?
The above said, I must at all cost be honest with my readers. Indian food is time-consuming to prepare. One needs to exercise care in measuring out the different spices that the individual recipes require, a certain amount of chopping is invariably involved and thereafter, most dishes must be given close attention while they are cooking on the stove or in the oven. However, this is a small price to pay for the gastronomic delights that await you. And remember, that you can always prepare dishes in advance and put them either in the freezer or in the fridge.
It has not been difficult for me to choose the recipe that I am now going to share with you. I cook “Indian” for my children quite often and this Kashmiri Rogan Josh is, with good reason, an enduring favourite of theirs. It is distinctive, principally because it does not contain any garlic or onions, as these ingredients are not eaten by Kashmiri Hindus. I am beholden for the recipe to Madhur Jaffrey, (even though I have amended her version) who is to Indian cuisine what Delia Smith is to everything else we eat.
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
25fl oz (720ml) plain yoghurt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
¾ inch (2cm) stick of cinnamon
½ teaspoon whole cloves
3lb (1kg 350g) stewing lamb cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes
2 ½ teaspoons salt – or to taste+
4 teaspoons bright red paprika* mixed with ¼ -1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dried ginger powder
1 ½ pints (845ml) water
¼ teaspoon garam masala, optional
+This may seem a lot but, as Nigel Slater says, “trust me”!
*This is the mild paprika much used in Spanish cooking and is what gives the Rogan Josh its red colour.
Measure out the different spices.
Grind the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar or grinder until fine
Heat the oil in a large pot over a high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon and cloves. A second later, put in all the meat and salt. Stir the meat and cook, still on a high heat, for about 5 minutes.
Now put in the paprika and cayenne (It is the cayenne which gives the dish its “heat”. I usually put in a ½ teaspoon but feel free to put in more or less depending on your taste buds.) and give the meat a good stir. Slowly add the yoghurt, 4-5 fl oz (100-150ml) at a time stirring the meat vigorously as you do so. Add all the yoghurt this way.
Keep cooking on high heat until all the liquid has boiled away. Alas, this phase of the cooking requires close attention and the diminishing liquid will also tend to splatter making a mess of your cooker.
Add the fennel and ginger.
Now put in 1 ½ pints (846ml) water and again reduce the liquid on the high heat until you have a thick, reddish brown sauce. Again, I fear there will be splattering but it won’t take long to clean up the top of your cooker.
Add the garam masala and serve with a plain long grain rice and a relish. Enjoy!