The Fast & Flavorful Spiced Lamb Curry That Pays Homage to My Mom

updated Oct 18, 2019
Lamb Curry

A spice-heavy lamb curry made in the pressure cooker.

Serves4

Prep50 minutes

Cook1 hour 10 minutes

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Credit: From left to right: Courtesy of Madhushree Ghosh; Joe Lingeman; Getty Images

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. This week, our Kitchn love letter comes from a reader, Madhushree Ghosh, who is sharing her recipe for her mom’s lamb curry in honor of Mother’s Day.

When I was growing up, Ma’s advice to my sister and me was, “Don’t spend more than 20 minutes in the kitchen — your world should be around conversations, not in front of a stove.” And her lamb curry recipe certainly taught us how quickly we could make something delicious, thanks to the pressure cooker. It was simple, flavorful, and made to fit the life of my mom — a harried cook, but someone who valued the texture and taste of a meal made with love.

I grew up in the slow-cooking world in the 1970s and ’80s in the Bengali neighborhood of Chittaranjan Park in South New Delhi. Every weekend my father Baba and I headed to the market on a chicken and goat meat expedition. We bought chicken from the Hindu butcher for our Saturday meal, and then headed to the next lane to buy goat meat from the Muslim butcher — the lines of religion were divided by the type of meat sold. The Muslim butcher — I believe his name was Mukim — was an expert in skinning, paring, and chopping the goat in minutes, using his knife and mallet.

During Ramadan, Mukim gave us what we needed, sometimes even chopping it into keema (minced) meat for Sunday, even though he himself stayed hungry as he fasted during that time. While he and Baba didn’t talk much except to discuss which part of the goat to cut, they had a mutual understanding and respect for one another — Mukim knew how to butcher, and Baba knew which part of the goat to take home. Mukim sometimes suggested lamb, which I now know is plentiful in the West, but it wasn’t so in India. I found it to be less fatty, but still rich in flavor.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

A Traditional Lamb Curry, Adapted for the Pressure Cooker

Back in the kitchen at home, Ma cooked the lamb with spices traditionally used in tandoori oven baking: cardamom, a ginger-garlic paste, cloves, cinnamon, and garam masala. Ma accelerated the cooking by using a pressure cooker instead of the slow-cooking tandoori oven.

The lamb curry I make is a version of my Ma’s, but I make it even quicker by marinating it in buttermilk to tenderize the meat. I also use ground coriander, tandoori masala, and ginger-garlic paste in the marinade to give the curry rich color and flavor. You can make this recipe with either a stovetop pressure cooker or an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot (instructions for both are below).

It’s been decades since both my parents have passed, and I miss them immensely every day. But I keep them alive by continuing to cook the way Ma taught me — highlighting good, clean flavors, spending as little time in the kitchen as possible, and focusing on the lively conversations around the dining table. This, according to Ma, is what life is all about — and it’s what I share with my friends every day.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Tester’s Note

This is a very spice-heavy dish (but not spicy from heat), so make sure you make lots of rice for sopping it up. I added in some coconut milk at the end for a creamier sauce, but taste it first and don’t be afraid to make adjustments in the seasoning to your liking. If you like fork-tender lamb, this is the dish for you! —Christine, May 2019

Lamb Curry

A spice-heavy lamb curry made in the pressure cooker.

Prep time 50 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    buttermilk

  • 1 cup

    diced red onion

  • 1 cup

    fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1/4 cup

    tandoori masala powder

  • 1/4 cup

    ground coriander

  • 2 tablespoons

    coarsely chopped garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili powder

  • 4 teaspoons

    coarsely chopped jalapeño pepper (from TK pepper)

  • 2 teaspoons

    garam masala

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 pounds

    boneless lamb shoulder or lamb shoulder steaks, cut into large chunks

For the curry:

  • 2 tablespoons

    grapeseed or vegetable oil

  • 2 cups

    diced red onion

  • 3 cups

    diced tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon

    minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon

    minced peeled fresh ginger

  • 1 teaspoon

    minced jalapeño

  • 2 teaspoons

    chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    coriander seeds

  • 2 teaspoons

    garam masala

  • 2 teaspoons

    tandoori masala

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground fennel

  • 1 cup

    water

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    fenugreek leaves (optional)

  • Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving

Instructions

For the marinade:

  1. Place the buttermilk, onion, cilantro, tandoori masala powder, coriander, garlic, ginger, chili powder, jalapeno, garam masala, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Place the lamb in a large bowl or large ziptop bag, pour in the spice mixture, and massage into the lamb. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

For the curry:

  1. Heat the oil in a stovetop pressure cooker over medium heat or using the Sauté function on an electric pressure cooker until shimmering. Add the onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño and cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, coriander, garam masala, and tandoori masala, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  2. Remove the lamb from the marinade and wipe the excess off (discard the remaining marinade). Add to the pressure cooker, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the fennel and stir to combine. Add the water and salt and stir to combine.

  3. Lock the lid and make sure the valve is sealed. Bring the stovetop pressure cooker up to pressure and then cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, or set the cook time for 30 minutes at high pressure for an electric pressure cooker.

  4. When the cooking time ends, do not vent the pressure cooker. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 20 minutes; quick release any remaining pressure. Open the lid and stir in the fenugreek leaves if using. Taste and season with more salt or tandoori masala as needed. If desired, let the sauce sit for a few minutes and skim off the grease. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The lamb can be marinated up to 1 day ahead.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.