I’ve tasted a lot of Lamb Madras recipes that end up being a spicier version of Rogan Josh, but without the same richness. This gives Madras a bad reputation, as what makes a Madras distinctive is the combination of the creamy coconut milk and the tartness of the Tamarind purée – they add a richness and bite that give Madras its distinctive flavour. This is my version of a Madras.
1 large tablespoon of Tamarind purée (you can find it in most Indian grocers – if you can only find Tamarind paste, then you may need a little less)
1/2 can of Coconut milk
500 grams (about 1lb) or lamb, cubed (add any bones you have, too)
1 red onion, sliced
1 cm ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsps garam masala
1 tsp crushed Kashmiri chilli (to taste)
1 tsp ground Turmeric
6 curry leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 sticks of cinnamon
6 green cardamom pods
Oil/Ghee for frying
Salt (to taste)
Start by toasting your cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon, and cardamom pods in a dry frying pan. Don’t have the pan too hot or the spices will smoke and go bitter too quickly. Just a light toasting to develop the flavours.
Start to sauté your onions, ginger, and garlic in about 5 tablespoons of oil (or a large knob of ghee). Again, don’t have the pan too warm. Add in a little salt at this stage (it’s meant to stop the onions from burning, but I’m not sure how much truth there is to that).
Once your onions start to go translucent, add in the spices your crushed earlier as well as your turmeric, garam masala. chilli and curry leaves. Mix with your onions, garlic, and ginger to create a rich masala base.
Fry for 5 more mins until rich. If your pan gets too dry, then add in a little more oil (you don’t want crushed spices to burn and go bitter). Set aside for a little while, while you get your meat ready.
Put your cubed lamb (and any bones you have) into a large dish and fry over a high heat. I’m using lamb chops, so I don’t need much oil. If you are using a fattier cut, then pour any excess fats from the lamb into your onion masala base – this ensures your lamb continues to sear, but you don’t lose any of the goodness from the rendered fat. I actually did this step at the same time as frying my onions, but feel free to take things slow.
Add in your coconut milk, cover and allow the dish to simmer for 1-2 hours until the meat melts in your mouth – I cooked mine in a slow cooker for the afternoon, which is also possible. If you want a milder dish, then add in a whole can; however, it can make your dish go a little too yellow and not the rich, red/brown colour that’s typical of Madras. You can also add beef stock or a tablespoon of tomato paste to bring the colour back. Just don’t put too much in, or you’ll muddle the flavours.
About 10 mins before serving add in your Tamarind purée. We love Tamarind, so I put extra in 🙂 Stir through your Madras and check for seasoning. It should be tart but still have a meaty richness. Remove any bones from the dish at this point, too.