The photos don’t really do this dish justice, but that’s what I get for starting a slow-cooked curry just that little bit too late, so that by the time we began eating it the light was dropping (and, of course, our bellies were growling.) If you time it right, you can have it done in a couple of hours, but no sooner, so it’s best started on an evening when you’re approaching dinner arrangements with a relaxed mood and, preferably, a glass of wine in hand. Even better, prepare it the day before – that way, the flavour will be even better, as will be, most likely, that relaxed mood.
I make two types of gosht wari dal – the recipe I’m posting today is the most exciting. Most often, I make a slightly adapted version of a simple, no frills family recipe, which requires little work, is humble in appearance, yet rewards the maker with a satisfying, tasty dish. But when in the mood for a bit of luxury, this is the one to go for, no question. I go heavy on the aromats here in order to build a rich, deep flavour, and let the lentils cook down enough so that much of them disappear into the body of the curry and give a smooth, almost creamy element (B asked if there was any coconut milk in the curry – nope, and no dairy either.) I leave the fragrant seeds whole in this recipe rather than grinding them, as I like noticing little individual bursts of flavour here and there, so add them when browning off the meat rather than dry toasting and then pounding them.
It’d been ages since I last made this, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out (you know how you can lose your touch when you haven’t made something in a while?) but the flavouring was all good, the only thing I need to make sure I do differently next time is to cook it for about ten or fifteen minutes longer, to make sure that every bit of meat is perfectly, meltingly tender. And I’ve got it in my head that some caramelised shallots would be an excellent addition. But even without those changes, it was a definite thumbs up, and went beautifully with the fresh turmeric, ginger and carrot pickle, which after sitting for a few days in the fridge, lost its initial harshness but kept its body. A great combination, we can’t wait to eat this again!
500g boneless lamb leg or shoulder
300g chana dal
½ tsp. bicarb
2 large onions (about 400g)
1 tbsp., plus 2 tsp. flavourless oil
1 large can tomatoes
2 tsp. tomato puree
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
10 cloves garlic
1 whole hot chilli
1 large cinnamon stick
2 star anise
8 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. fenugreek seeds
2 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tsp. nigella seeds
1 tbsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 stems limbro (curry leaves)
2 tbsp. fresh coriander stems, chopped
Juice of 1 lime/lemon
1 tbsp. honey (optional)
1 tsp. garam masala
Salt, to taste
Rinse the chana dal, picking out and discarding any black or brown bits. Then, put in a large bowl and soak for one hour.
Once soaked, rinse again, then put the dal into a large saucepan. Pour over enough cold water so that the lentils sit on the bottom of the pan, and over them sits water of the same depth of the dal, then stir in the bicarb, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, covered with a lid (leave a small gap) for thirty minutes. It should be softened once cooked, but still holding its shape.
Meanwhile, blitz together the tomatoes, tomato puree, ginger, garlic, chilli, ground coriander and turmeric.
Dice the onions. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, then fry the onion, stirring every now and then so it doesn’t stick, until it takes on a good golden brown colour.
Cube the lamb into even sized pieces, and trim off the fat. Heat two teaspoons of oil in a large, deep sided saucepan, and start to brown the meat. After a couple of minutes, add the whole spices, turning the meat now and then to make sure that you get a crust starting to form on every surface.
Next, add the blitzed tomato mixture to the saucepan containing the meat and spices, then stir through the onions, bay leaf, limbro and coriander stems.
Drain off half of the water from the cooked dal, then pour the lentils and remaining liquid into the pan with the meat. Give it all a good mix, bring up to a boil, then simmer with a lid for a minimum of one and a half hours (we ate ours at this point because we couldn’t wait any longer, but be prepared to wait a bit longer, depending on the size of the pieces of meat, to make sure that it ends up meltingly tender.)
Stir through the garam masala and lemon or lime juice, then add salt to taste. If you want to boost the richness of your curry with a little sweetness, add the honey. Remove the bay leaf, limbro stems, cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom pods (if you can find them, that is! Otherwise, just remember to warn your diners…)