I will shortly be celebrating a member of my family’s half century in South Africa.  A birthday feast is planned and a curry “with all the spices” will be on the menu.  Mum asked if I had a recipe she could use and I immediately thought of this one which I’ve made several times and really like it.  It’s not ‘hot’ in the chilli sense but rather ‘warm and aromatic’.  You can make it ‘hotter’ if you wish by simply adding more of the heat generating ingredients such as peppercorns, ginger and cayenne pepper.

“Rogan (or Roghan) josh hails from Kashmir, North India. It has a thick, dark, nutty sauce made with almonds and roasted cumin, coriander and coconut. Even though shoulder of lamb is used here, you can use leg, neck or shank.” (Inspired by the recipe from “The Essential Madhur Jaffrey”)

Serves 4-5


900g shoulder of lamb, cubed into 2.5 cm pieces
6 tbsp vegetable oil
10 whole cloves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
12 peppercorns
6 whole cardamom pods
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp desiccated unsweetened coconut
3 tbsp blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped or minced through garlic presser
A piece of fresh ginger, about 2.5 cm cube, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground mace
2 medium onions, peeled and finely minced
3 tbsp full fat plain yoghurt (important to be full fat otherwise will curdle)
400g tin tomatoes
1½ tsp salt
Tomato purée (to thicken sauce at the end)
Ground almonds (to thicken sauce at the end)


1. Ensure the meat is dry before frying to help browning, so dap with paper towel to remove excess moisture.
2. Heat the oil in a 25-30 cm frying pan until it starts to smoke (important that oil is very hot). When oil is hot, add cloves, peppercorns and cardamom. Stir them for a few seconds until they puff up and darken.
3. Now put in 7 or 8 pieces of meat at a time to brown. When each lot is brown on all sides, remove with a slotted spoon to a large flameproof covered casserole dish, taking care to leave the spices in the frying pan. Continue to brown all the meat this way and set aside. Turn off the heat under the frying pan leaving the spices in the pan.
4. Next take a thick bottomed frying pan. Put the cumin, coriander, coconut & almonds in it. Turn heat to medium and dry roast, stirring, for about 5 mins or until the spices turn coffee colour. Turn off the heat and put roasted spices and nuts into a blender or food processor. Add the chopped garlic and ginger. With a slotted spoon, lift out the fried spices in the oil and put them in the blender too. Add the turmeric, nutmeg, mace, cayenne pepper and 8 tbsp of water. Blend at high speed until you have a smooth, thick paste. You may need to stop the blender and push down with a rubber spatula. Add another tsp or so of water if you need to loosen the paste a bit.
5. In the same frying pan in which the lamb cooked, fry the onions on high heat, stirring and scraping up the juices for about 5 mins until they start to colour.
6. Lower heat to medium and add paste from the blender. Stir and fry for another 5 mins, gradually adding the yoghurt, a tbsp at a time (to prevent curdling).
7. Add the tin of tomatoes. Stir and fry another 2-3 mins.
8. Now add 300ml water. Bring to the boil. Cover, lowering heat, and simmer gently for 15 mins.
9. Put the meat into this sauce. Add salt and stir. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour or until tender. Stir a few times as it cooks.
10. When meat is cooked and tender, add combination of tomato purée and ground almonds to thicken sauce as required. The tomato purée deepens the flavour and colour of the dish and the ground almonds give a lovely sweet, nutty, textured finish.

Notes: I do mine in a pressure cooker as follows:
• At stage 5, after frying the onions and scraping up all the juices, put these into the pressure cooker, and then follow the rest of the recipe using the pressure cooker.
• At stage 9, cook in pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s instructions (for mine, I cook at high pressure for 15 mins and reduce pressure quickly).