They say Laal Maas is not for the faint-hearted and this richly spiced and flavorsome lamb curry from Rajasthan can pack a punch, depending on the amount and type of chili used. Although not a fan of mind-blowing fiery curries, over the years my tolerance for spicy foods has grown considerably. This recipe for Laal Mass was created by Mahipal Singh, the executive chef at the Nirvana restaurant at The Ritz Carlton Hotel Bahrain. This was part of an Indian cultural event at the hotel and had been invited to attend a cooking class.
The Laal Maas also brought back memories of a wonderful visit to India with friends. We visited Jaipur and Udaipur and managed to squeeze in a memorable evening at the beautiful Rambag Palace in Jaipur. On advice we ordered the Rajasthani Thali, a good choice as we savored a variety of dishes from the region and Laal Maas was served. A memorable feast in opulent surroundings.
Looking at various recipes for Laal Mass, some marinate the lamb (or mutton) with the yoghurt and a paste made from soaking and mincing dried chills, vegetable oil is replaced with ghee and others do not add tomatoes. When cooking Laal Maas at home I wasn’t brave enough to use the 1 cup of oil with this recipe and whittled the oil down to 5 tablespoons… probably Chef Mahipal would shake his head in despair. It is the same when I make Dal Makhani, I can’t bring myself to use large amounts of ghee.
The red color of Kashmiri chili powder adds a reddish tone to this lamb curry without the intense heat of other chili powders. Black cardamom has a district smokey aroma and used with savory dishes, green cardamom can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It was the only spice I did not have in my kitchen and black cardamom can easily be found at the local spice markets around the island and in some supermarkets. You can make Laal Maas a day ahead and reheat when needed. If you find you were a little heavy-handed with the chili powder you can always serve a cooling cucumber riata along with the dish.
Laal Maas a Spicy Lamb Curry
250ml of corn oil, (used 5 tablespoons of sunflower oil)
500g sliced onion
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
2 grams of black peppercorns
2 whole green cardamom pods
2 whole black cardamom pods
2 medium cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste, (used finely grated cloves of garlic)
1 and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste, (used finely grated the ginger
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 kg of lamb cubes, (used boned leg of lamb and cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 teaspoon red chili powder, (used 1 tablespoon of Khashmiri Chilli powder)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1/8 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
1 teaspoon kastoori methi, (fenegurek leaves) (used dried)
100g peeled tomatoes, (used tinned tomatoes and blended them into a liquid)
250g tomatoes, chopped, (see note at bottom of recipe)
100g tomato paste
100g plain yoghurt
pinch of red coloring agent, (omitted this)
sea salt, to taste
chopped fresh coriander and fried onions, ( used thinly sliced ginger instead of onions)
How to make:
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, add the onions and cook until golden brown. Add the cumin seeds, black peppercorns, green and black cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves, fry the spices until fragrant.
Add the garlic and ginger, fry for about a minute. Add the lamb cubes and fry until all the pieces are no longer pink in color. Next, add the chili powder, coriander powder, grama masala powder, turmeric powder and cumin powder. Mix and stir all the ingredients together until the spices are well blended with the lamb.
Add the kastoori methi, tomatoes, tomato paste, yoghurt and coloring agent, if using.
Mix everything together and add about 1/4 cup of water (see note below) and season with some salt. Bring the contents of the saucepan to a gentle boil, cover with a lid and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the curry for about 1 hour or until the lamb is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Before serving garnish with fresh coriander, fried onions or fresh julienned ginger. Serve Laal Maas with naan or steamed white rice along with a cooling cucumber raita.
Note: Oops… when rewriting this recipe for this blog post (had already made and photographed the dish) I realized I have forgotten to add 250g of chopped tomatoes into the dish when making. If you do add these tomatoes omit the 1/4 cup of water. The Laal Maas got the thumbs up from the rest of the family despite this.
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