"So tender you can cut it with a spoon"

“So tender you can cut it with a spoon

Marinade: Marinating time 12 – 24 hours.


4 inch stick of Cinnamon

8 cloves

3 large dried red chills

Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger

4 cloves of garlic

2 red onions

1 fresh green chilli

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of tamarind paste

2 tablespoons of rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)

1 1/2 tsp of palm sugar or jaggery (alternatively soft brown sugar will do)

25 ml Oil or Ghee

1/2 tsp Asafoetida

1 cup of water


For Second stage:

2-4 lamb shanks or a bone in shoulder of lamb

200grams red lentils

6 peeled and diced fresh tomatoes (or 1 tin of tomatoes)

1 Fresh green chilli

1 Blade of mace

1/2 bunch of fresh coriander – chopped

3 fresh tomatoes rough chopped





  1. Break up the cinnamon and rip the dried chilli into flakes and warm in a dry pan with the cloves until they smell fragrant then grind into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  2. Roughly chop the onions, peeled ginger, garlic, & fresh green chilli, then tip into a blender with turmeric, tamarind paste, vinegar, sugar, oil, asafoetida and water.  Blend until you have a smooth paste. Add the ground spices from stage 1 and blend together.
  3. make small incisions into the meat and then place in a non-metallic container with the marinade, rubbing it into the meat and leave for 12-24 hours.
  4. Scrape the marinade off the meat and brown in a heavy bottomed casserole pot in a little Ghee or clarified butter. Remove and set aside.
  5. If the pan is catching, then wipe it clean.  Add a very small amount of ghee or clarified butter then over a medium heat add the marinade.  Cook the marinade for approx 15 minutes without a lid.  You want to drive off much of the water through evaporation which will help the onions begin to release their sugars and stew in their own juices.  Lower the heat if it begins to stick and stir every few minutes.  By now you may notice that the aroma coming off the paste as it cooks down is reminiscent of a Dhansak as it has a hot, sweet yet sour piquancy.  Unlike a Dhansak though, we are going to add fruit of a different kind.
  6. Lower the heat to low.  Add the peeled and chopped tomatoes or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes if you don’t have fresh.
  7. Pick over the lentils o check for any hard grit or stones.  (I always do this as it’s what we are always told but have yet to ever find one stone.  However saying that, the one day I don’t do this will obviously be the day I break a tooth on a spoonful of Dal).  Wash the lentils in a sieve under a cold running tap and add to the pot.
  8. Add a little water if needed to just cover the lentil mixture, then pop in 3 bruised green cardamon pods, a small blade of mace and one deseeded green chilli split lengthways into 4 strips.
  9. Place the lamb into the centre of the pot and bring to a simmer.  Pop on a lid and place in an oven pre-heated to 180℃ for 10 minutes then turn down to 120℃ for 3-5hours depending on how patient you are.  The longer you let it slow cook then the more tender it will be.  During cooking check it every hour to be sure the lentils haven’t absorbed all the available moisture.  If they have then add a little more water.  For the last hour, remove the lid so that the meat can brown a little more.
  10. When cooked, remove the lamb and allow to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.  Add the fresh chopped  coriander and remaining tomatoes to give the sauce a fresh zing and return it to the oven for 10 mins or simmer over a very low heat for 5 minutes just to soften the new additions.
  11. Serve with a little steamed white rice and naan bread.

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