Spiced Lamb Stew – Telangana, central India

This recipe came from Saveur.com, and I found it during my week of Indian cooking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wow, is it good! The original recipe called for bone-in lamb, and that might have been even better; but I made mine with boneless lamb stew meat and it was terrific. On another occasion I made it with chicken drumsticks and it worked great as well.

I did the whole thing in my brand new dutch oven. At several points the bottom seemed “burned,” (it gets hotter than some of my other pans!) but it always scraped up nicely, and probably added a depth of flavor to the stew.

When I made a double batch, I did it in my extra-large saute pan. It seemed at first like I had more onions than would fit; but they cooked down nicely.

A note on the spices:

  • Cardamom: I really think this is the magic flavor of this dish – don’t skimp! (but only use ground)
  • Turmeric: too much will make it too curry-ish
  • Cayenne: too much will make it too spicy!
  • Ginger: too much will make it to ginger-y! LOL
  • Garlic: there’s no such thing as too much. LOL (same pretty much goes for onions)
  • Cilantro: it doesn’t seem to affect the flavor very much at all.

1/3 c olive oil
1 lb medium red potatoes, cut into big chunks
1/2 t ground cardamom seeds (I made it once with whole seeds and it made the broth grainy)
1/8t ground cloves
2-3 c of onion, sliced pretty big (2 large onions)
1 lb lamb stew meat, well seasoned (or 2 lb bone-in lamb shoulder or chicken)
1 t cayenne pepper
3/4 t ground turmeric (or 2 t chopped fresh turmeric)
2 cloves garlic, chopped or mashed
1 t fresh chopped ginger
1 c plain yogurt (the recipe called for full-fat but I used fat-free and it was fine)
3/4 c minced cilantro
3 small green Thai chiles – I skipped these and there was still a good amount of heat, from the cayenne
1 T pumpkin seeds – I skipped these too

Saute the potatoes in oil for 6-8 minutes until browned and partially cooked. Remove to a bowl, leaving the oil behind if possible.

[I made it once by skipping this step because it splatters and makes a mess. The resultant dish had less of a depth of flavor; and while it’s always possible that my other spices were different, I do think the sauteed potatoes add something nice].

Saute the onions in the same pan, adding oil if necessary. Add the cardamom and cloves and saute until lightly caramelized, about 20 minutes, then remove to the container with your potatoes.

Season the meat and saute it in the pan until brown, 5-6 minutes. Add the spices and then the yogurt, 1/4 c at a time. The yogurt will turn the stew kind of liquid-y until it cooks off. Once the meat/dairy is rather dry, add 2c water and boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, until the meat is nice and tender.

When I made it with drumsticks, my plan was to cook it a lot less because the chicken wouldn’t take as long to be done. But I accidentally left it on for well over an hour and wow was it good! The meat was succulent and falling off the bones; and the long simmer had sucked the cartilege out of the bones and added a wonderful richness to the gravy.

Add the potatoes and onions back to the pan and cook until the potatoes are done, another 10 minutes. Salt to taste. Add the cilantro, garam masala, pumpkin seeds and chiles (if using).

To make it easier to eat, I fished the meat out and trimmed it, discarding the bones and other inedible bits. I also fished out the potatoes and cut them into pieces closer to bite-sized. Then I mixed everything back together again to make a proper stew.

Serve with either naan or rice.

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