Reminiscing on my trip to Rajasthan towards the end of fall last year I was inspired to make a very special dish which I had encountered often during my travel. Rajasthan , literally translating to “Land of the Royals” is one of India’s premier tourist destinations due to it’s rich history and diverse beauty. Not surprisingly, Laal Maas( Red Lamb Curry) traces its roots to the kitchens of the royal families of Rajasthan and is one of the best meat dishes you will find anywhere in India. My journey began in the beautiful city of Udaipur, the historic capital of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar. Udaipur is quite different from the rest of the state. Rajasthan is famous of the Thar desert and has by and large a desert climate , Udaipur on the other hand is quite green , full of hills and lakes and overlying Lake Pichola is the beautiful Udaipur city Palace.
The Udaipur City Palace is absolutely breath taking. It has a fabulous collection of paintings, pottery, armor and historical artifacts. The palace is overlying Lake Pichola and it’s worth taking the boat trip around the lake to an Island called Jag Mandir or the Lake Palace Island. This palace was also the site of shooting for the James Bond movie Octopussy! After my visit to the palace, I stopped by at a restaurant overlying Lake Pichola where I had Laal Maas for the first time while watching the sun go down.
It truly was an amazing experience. Laal Maas literally translates to “Red meat “, is a curry dish prepared with a red hot chili paste. In my recipe however I have chosen to use Kashmiri chilies which are less in heat and provide as intense a color than the chilies found in Rajasthan. If you would like to substitute Kashmiri chilies you could use ancho chilies, Aleppo pepper or a mix of cayenne and sweet Paprika.
Before I move onto the recipe, my post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning of my trip to Chittorgarh truly one of the best experiences in my life. Chittorgarh fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was also the seat of the capital of the Mewar kingdom before it was moved to Udaipur. Being a history buff I had to visit Chittorgarh(Chittor). The fort’s origins are lost in a mixture of actual history and mythology, however one of the rulers who is credited to restoration of the fort was Rana Kumbh. One of the most impressive structures he built in the fort was the Vijay Stambh (Victory tower) a 9 story tower dating back to 15th century to celebrate his victory over invading forces of Malwa and Gujarat. The tower is a symbol of religious pluralism of the rulers of Mewar with images of Hindu gods and goddesses, Jain gods and saints and the word “Allah” inscribed eight times. Legend has it that whenever the fort fell to invaders, this would be the only structure which went unscathed out of sheer respect! I recommend anyone visiting Rajasthan , especially Udaipur to take a trip to Chittorgarh and experience the beauty of the fort and this tower in particular
Now onto the fun part of the recipe. As mentioned earlier, this is a less spicy version using Kashmiri chilies as Rajasthani chilies are hotter, if you like heat feel free to use regular dried chilies ! The dish is best enjoyed with plain rice or naan and it being a spicy dish you definitely would want some beer to wash down!
- 750 gm bone in lamb (preferably neck pieces or stew pieces)
- 1 large red onion( or two medium) finely chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 8-10 dried red chilies
- 2 tablespoon yogurt
- 2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder ( can be substituted with 1 teaspoon cayenne and 1 teaspoon sweet paprika)
- Salt and pepper to season
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- Dry roast the red chilies for about a minute and soak them in warm water for 15 minutes. Now take out the chilies and blitz in a grinder with a little water to form a red chili paste. Set it aside.
- Dry roast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds. Using a mortar and pestle crush them to a fine powder, set this spice mix aside. Note : you can use dry cumin, coriander and fennel powder as well, the flavor won’t be as intense but will do the trick.
- Season the lamb . Heat oil in a pan and brown the lamb on both sides, cooking in batches .
- Now add the ghee to the pan where the lamb was cooked , heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook till they are transparent. Now add the spice mix in and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tomato paste in and cook for a further minute. Add the Lamb back in and give it a nice stir.
- At this stage add the chili paste in along with 1/2 cup of water and cook for a few minutes.
- Add the chili powder to the yogurt, with a little salt and beat well. It appears as if it is a lot of chillis but Kashmiri chili powder merely adds to the color not the heat. Add this yogurt mix to the lamb.
- Let the lamb simmer over slow heat for a couple of hours. Alternatively if you are in a rush you can pressure cook it for 15-20 minutes till the lamb is tender and falling off the bone. Garnish with mint and serve as shown below