Fragrant and Creamy
Redolent of fennel, cinnamon, and cloves, with tender lamb bathed in coconut milk, this coconut lamb curry is a must. Sunday means lamb in many non-veg Indian households, and as with any curry, what it is flavored with varies all over India. I love the combination of coconut, curry leaves, and some sort of acid. And in this case, tamarind paste is the star.
Lamb Madras Curry
British Indian food lovers may recognize this combination of spices as a Madras curry. The city of Madras is now called Chennai. And in the U.K., this curry is code for a very hot and fiery masala. My tolerance for heat from chilies is pretty low, so this fragrant curry is captivating, but not incendiary.
Coconut Lamb Curry
The inspiration for this recipe is another winner from Hari Ghotra’s YouTube channel, though I have made a few changes as usual. I took a cue from Madhur Jaffrey’s Madras curry and added a cup of coconut milk. It brings sweetness and allows the spices to blend more gracefully. Feel free to mix up the meat you use. Beef can be used instead of lamb, but chicken will bring this curry together much more quickly. However, turkey or even pork will work well too. I would resist the temptation to use chicken breast, as it has a tendency to be dry. But use what you like.
Oh, and by the way—This recipe is one of the top 20 dishes that are Indian favorites. Take a look!
See Notes below before you cook.
Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry)
- 2 pounds lamb ~ Cut into cubes, use beef or chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoon anise or fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon white poppy seeds ~ Or same amount cashews
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick ~ 3 inches
- 6 whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutions
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
- 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
- 10 fresh curry leaves ~ Optional, coarsely chopped, about
- 1 1/2 cups onions ~ Finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste ~ Buy or make; or 1 1/2 tsp each of puréed or finely mince garlic and ginger
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon lime juice ~ More to taste
- 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons cilantro ~ Chopped for garnish
- Gather your marinade ingredients.
- In a medium pan over medium heat, add all the whole spices: coriander, anise or fennel seeds, poppy seeds or cashews, cumin, cardamom, cassia, and cloves. Toast for a minute or two until fragrant. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- Grind spices in a spice grinder, straining out any big pieces and then run through the grinder again until all the spices are ground to a fairly fine powder. Discard any larger pieces that are leftover. Add the turmeric, chili powder, and salt.
- Place lamb in a large bowl and coat with the spice powder. If you have time, allow the lamb or beef to marinate for 2 hours, or overnight. If using chicken, a couple of hours will be enough marination time.
- While the meat is finishing up its marination time, gather your sauce ingredients, and start preparing it.
- Heat a heavy dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, test a couple of mustard seeds. If they pop immediately, add the rest of the seeds. When mustard seeds are popped (1 minute), immediately stir in the curry leaves, onions, and salt. Cook the onions until they begin to brown; about 8 minutes. If the onions stick to the bottom of the pan, add water in 1 tablespoon increments as needed.
- Add the ginger garlic paste. Sauté for 30 seconds, stirring continuously until it no longer smells raw.
- Add the meat and water and cook for 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, add the coconut milk and water to just cover the meat. Cook very gently, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed. You are looking for the sauce to thicken and the lamb to be very tender. Lamb will take between 60 minutes and 90 minutes. Beef could take up to 90 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Boneless chicken will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add lime juice starting with a tablespoon, adding more as needed. Taste for salt, acid (lime), and heat level from chilies. As with most curries, allowing the meat to rest in the sauce overnight will give you and even more flavorful dish. Serve with a simple rice dish and/or Indian bread.
- If you are cutting lamb or beef into cubes yourself, you may want to purchase an extra half-pound of meat. I find that a large cut of lamb or beef has quite a bit of fat that needs to be trimmed away.
- If you prefer using chicken for this recipe, you may want to use about 3/4 the amount of spices in the spice powder, and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Chicken thigh meat will be the best choice, but breast meat will work as long as you are careful not to overcook it.
- Indian white poppy seeds are different enough from black poppy seeds, that if you don’t have them, it is best to use cashews instead. The purpose of either is to add body to the final sauce for this coconut lamb curry.
- Coconut Lamb Curry is one of the Top 20 Dishes in India, enjoy!