Lamb Rogan Josh. Succulent braised goat or lamb in a yogurt based sauce flavored with fennel, dried ginger, cloves and black cardamom. This Indian dish gets its fiery red color(rogan) from Kashmiri chilies.
Whenever I crave a different meat preparation without the typical onion-garlic- tomato masala, this rogan josh delivers. Rogan Josh is an indian dish originating from the state of Kashmir in India. Non vegetarian especially goat or mutton dishes are at the heart of kashmiri cuisine. This recipe comes from my aunt, a true blue Kashmiri. To tell you the truth, I had eaten it all wrong before I ate rogan josh prepared by her.
I tasted rogan josh the first time some 6-8 years back. While the meat slow cooked on the stove, I could tell that it did not smell like the curries which we were used to eating in our home. The liquorice aroma of fennel & the smokiness of dried ginger kept the house smelling wonderful till quite a few hours later. The vibrant red hue of the dish was indicative of its essential character, of royalty, of feast.
Rogan dish is an indian dish originating from the Kashmir region of India with roots in Persia. Meat dishes are at the heart of kashmiri cuisine and this recipe comes from my aunt, a true blue Kashmiri. Rogan (fat) from the meat and josh (intensity (of color)) from the kashmiri red chillies, combined with the warming flavors of ginger, fennel & hing, each morsel of this dish is a true delight. You can easily do it wrong by choosing a lean meat (like chicken) for making rogan josh. It is not rogan josh unless the meat cooks in its own fat plus the aromatic & bold infusion of whole black cardamoms, bay leaf and sharp indian cinnamon or cassia bark to develop a robust, distinctive taste.
I tried my aunt's recipe twice, it didn't come out great the first time. I think I over did the ginger, but the second time it turned out insanely good. She told me to use ground fennel the way I would use coriander powder in day today north indian recipes. Meaning use it liberally! Using mustard oil is the authentic but since it is hard to source in the west, I would suggest to substitute with any neutral oil in this recipe.
Ingredients Needed for Lamb Rogan Josh
The soul of authentic Rogan Josh is spices, but nothing out of the ordinary except maybe black cardamom and asafetida. Those are the two spices that I haven't spotted in American grocery stores yet. Rest you will find quite easily without paying a visit to indian grocer. Here is a list of ingredients :-
- Lamb/Goat. Lamb shoulder is the best cut because it has a good amount of marble and it cooks super tender. However, you can easily use the packaged lamb stew meat from the meat aisle. If you are using goat meat, I go for baby goat mixed pieces because thats the best I can find here in United States.
- Spices - As I mentioned earlier, you can find everything except a few in stores. Here are a few wonderful substitutions:- 1) Use Paprika in place of Kashmiri Chili Powder. 2) Skip black cardamom. This spice has a distinctive woody taste which is hard to substitute. 3) Asafetida or Hing is used to imitate the umami similar to onion or garlic in rogan josh. I would suggest adding 2-3 cloves of smashed garlic instead.
- Mustard Oil. Authentic Rogan Josh is cooked in virgin mustard oil. Mustard Oil is a very popular cooking oil in North Indian cuisine but again it can be hard to source in United States. I suggest using Ghee (clarified butter) in place of mustard oil.
Cooking Rogan Josh
Cooking Rogan Josh on slow heat, continuously tending to it is the right technique. You cannot dump everything in a pot and walk away. You can read the detailed recipe in recipe card below but here are a few key steps of the cooking process that I want to highlight.
- We start by dry roasting the spices and grinding them. Roasting the spices awakens the oils in them and once udder freshly ground, they taste so much better than powdered ones.
- Slowly add the kashmiri chili powder and thinned out yogurt simultaneously to the browned lamb meat. Use full fat plain yogurt. The moisture of the yogurt prevents the kashmiri chili from burning and the fat pf yogurt helps in bringing out their beautiful color.
- Rogan josh is not a curry. Its not too saucy. The masala base is thick enough to stick to the meat and the oil forms major part of the sauce. The meat cooks in its own juices and we just use ½ cup water for a pound and half of meat.
Lamb Rogan Josh
For The Marination
- 1.5 lb lamb shoulder, cut into 2 " chunks (or mutton or beef)
- ½ tablespoon mustard oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For The Sauce
- 3 tablespoon plain whole milk yogurt
- 5 tablespoon mustard oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon(scant) asafoetida (hing)
- 1 bayleaf
- 5 green cardamom, cracked open
- 1 black, cardamom, cracked open
- 1.5-2 tablespoon kashmiri mirch powder (or use 1.5 tablespoon paprika)
- ¼ teaspoon(heaped) dried ginger powder
- 1.5 teaspoon ground fennel
- ¼ teaspoon hot red chili powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
- ½ cup hot water
- 3-4 threads saffron, optional
- Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
Dry Roast and Grind
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 whole green cardamom
- 6 black peppercorns
- ½ inch cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 1 blade mace
- Rub the lamb with mustard oil and salt. Set aside for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, thin out the yogurt with 2-3 tablespoon of water. Mix to a smooth consistency. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottomed pot, heat up the mustard oil.Mustard oil needs to be heated more than the usual oil to do away the raw smell. Heat till you see that the oil turns pale from its deep golden color. Reduce heat to low. Add the cumin and hing. Wait for the aroma. About 5-7 seconds. Add the marinated lamb.
- Bump up the heat to medium and stir around so that the lamb is coated in oil. You will see that in 1-2 minutes the lamb will start browning. Add the green & black cardamom. Stir for another 1-2 minutes.
- Now, reduce the heat to low. Add the kashmiri chilli powder a teaspoon at a time and immediately add a splash of thin yogurt.Stir around gently.Do this till all the chili powder and yogurt are exhausted, adding yogurt last. Continue on low heat so that the yogurt does not curdle and the chili does not burn.If you feel that the pot is way too hot, take off the stove for a while and return back.
- After about 2 minutes, bump up the heat to medium and add the ginger powder, ground fennel, red chili powder and salt.Stir around, you will see a lot of liquid in the pot but that's okay. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
- Let simmer covered on low heat for about 1 hour and 10 minutes (or more, depending on how large the meat pieces are) till the lamb is almost 95% cooked. You will need to check the pot 3-4 times in between to ensure that it is not sticking to the bottom, you can add a splash of water if needed.
- While the lamb is cooking , in a small pan dry roast the spices listed under 'to be roasted' for a minute or less. Transfer to a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle and coarsely grind. Once the lamb is 95% cooked, add these spices to the pot, add about ½ cup water and cover again. Let simmer for another 20 minutes till the lamb is cooked through.
- Switch off the stove. Add saffron if using and let sit for 40 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.
- Traditionally mutton is used in the preparation of rogan josh. If you get it where you live, go ahead and use it. I rotate between lamb or goat meat depending one what I get at store.
- Fresh ground fennel is really strong. I usually grind the fennel a day ahead and leave covered on countertop. If you use fresh ground do not use more than ¾ teaspoon.
- Rogan josh is supposed to have little to no gravy. So do not add too much water.
- When you serve, the oil should be separating from the meat, thats a sign of good rogan josh. Y
- Substitute mustard oil with ghee.
- Use Paprika in place of Kashmiri Chili Powder.
- Skip black cardamom if you do not get it. This spice has a distinctive woody taste which is hard to substitute.
- Asafetida or Hing is used to imitate the umami similar to onion or garlic in rogan josh. I would suggest adding 2-3 cloves of smashed garlic instead.