In my lifetime, I have made many versions of what is commonly referred to as lamb "curry." Of them all, this Kashmiri Rogan Josh is the new undisputed champion.
To me, the genius of Indian cuisine is the way it highlights the role aroma plays in whetting our appetites. While other cuisines, notably French and Japanese, have taught us that we eat with our eyes, Indian cuisine reminds us that we also eat with our noses. In fact, compared to our schnoz, the tongue is deaf and mute as a taster. Something like 90% of our ability to taste comes from our olfactory senses, which is why we can't taste much when we have a cold.
This version of Rogan Josh is probably the most aromatic dish I have ever placed under the old sniffer.
Each inhalation of its heady aroma reminds me of all that we have learned about the Kashmiris these past 2 weeks. I cannot avoid thinking about Kashmir's central position on the ancient Spice Route that flowed between China, India, and the Middle East. The combination of fennel and ginger brings to mind Chinese star anise, while cinnamon and smoky black cardamom brings me squarely back into the Malabar coast of southern India.
I do not exaggerate when I say that no dish is more emblematic of Kashmiri cuisine than this recipe for Rogan Josh. It features the favorite meat of the Kashmiris, mutton and lamb, and it is braised in yogurt, in the fashion typical of the region. In addition to the spices I already mentioned, the dish includes ample amounts of Kashmiri chili powder, which contribute its scarlet color, gentle heat, and the name of the dish, as rogan literally means "red."
This recipe for Rogan Josh comes from the Hindu Brahmin community, or pandits, of Kashmir. It is a dish that undoubtedly often found its way onto the tables of the family of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was of Kashmiri lineage, as well as that of his daughter, Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi. True to what we learned in my post on the Kashmiri kitchen, this Hindu version of Rogan Josh uses asafetida, a pungent tree resin, instead of garlic and onions.
In fact, you won't find any of the members of the "Indian mirepoix" of onions, garlic and fresh ginger in this recipe. Neither will you find any of the spices and herbs commonly used in "Indian cooking," like cumin, coriander, black mustard seeds, turmeric or cilantro.
If you are accustomed to the heavy, cream laden dish that goes by the name "rogan josh" in almost every Indian restaurant, you will be as surprised as I was by the complexity and subtleness of the version presented here. I hope you enjoy it as much as N and I did.
This is my last post on Kashmir, her people, and their cuisine. I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it! I had fun becoming acquainted with the people of Kashmir through learning about some of the tasty treats that bring them joy.
All of you who have supported Pim's Menu for Hope II campaign with your donations to UNICEF should be proud of yourselves. You have made a difference in the lives of the survivors of the earthquake that struck the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India. I just learned that we have raised over $15,000!
There are still a few hours left to buy a raffle ticket for a chance to win the Kashmiri Cooking Kit (pictured below) or any of the brilliant gifts that my fellow food bloggers have donated to the Menu for Hope II campaign. To help you decide which gift tickles your fancy, check out Pim's visual menu with pictures of all the prizes and links to their full descriptions.
I wish you all the best of luck. Cheers!
Edited on Dec. 30th: I forgot to mention when I posted this that my recipe for Rogan Josh is my contribution to Meenakshi's (of Hooked on Heat) inaugural edition of "From My Rasoi." The theme this month is appropriately "winter" and I cannot think of a better dish to take the chill off.
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey)
2 lbs. (1 kg) boneless lamb leg or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch pieces
2-3 t Kosher salt
¼ c vegetable oil
3 black cardamom pods*
1 piece cinnamon stick, 1-inch
4 t Kashmiri chili powder* (or 3½ t paprika and ½ t cayenne)
3 c plain whole milk yogurt
1 T fennel seeds, ground to a powder in spice mill or mortar & pestle
2 t ginger powder
3 c water
¼ t garam masala*
Over medium-high flame, heat a heavy bottomed pot (such as Le Creuset) large enough to hold lamb pieces in one layer. Add oil. When hot, add black cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. After a few seconds, add asafetida, then a second later add the meat (using tongs, lift spices onto top of meat to prevent them from burning). Brown meat for 5-8 minutes, turning pieces only occasionally as each side caramelizes (pictured left).
Add chili powder and about a cup of the yogurt, stirring well to prevent the chili powder from burning. Add the rest of the yogurt and stir well. Cook (still over medium-high heat) for about 10 minutes, until liquid has all been cooked off, being careful to stir well during the last few minutes. It is ready for next step when you can readily see the bottom of the pan after you stir.
Add fennel and ginger powders and stir and cook for a minute. Add water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer gently over medium-low to low heat for at least 2 hours, until tender (a wooden skewer will pierce the meat easily, with no resistance). It may take as long as 4 hours, depending on the variety of lamb used (more water may be needed for longer cooking). The sauce should be thick and velvety. If it is too thin, turn up the heat to reduce. If too thick, add more water.
Rogan Josh is better if allowed to sit either at room temperature for a couple of hours or refrigerated over a night or two. Just before serving, reheat and stir in the garam masala.
* All of these more difficult to find spices, which are crucial to achieving the authentic flavor of Rogan Josh, will be given to the lucky winner of my Kashmiri Cooking Kit. If you are not the lucky winner, you should be able to order all of them online through Kalustyan's.