Nalli Gosht: lamb shanks in a spiced yoghurt sauce

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This majestic curry, with melt-in-the-mouth spiced lamb and a thick sauce that is, quite frankly, to die for, is easy to make. It can be made a couple of days ahead, reheating gently when you are ready to eat.

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This is my version of Nalli Gosht; adapted from one of the recipes scribbled down many years ago. I have tweaked things here and there to give what I think is curry perfection.

I love making this curry and often make it for special occasions, set down on the table as a centrepiece for people to dive into. The meat is gorgeously melt-in-the-mouth and the sauce (the real star of the dish) is thick, rich and with many layers of flavours.

This is not a fierce curry: the heat from the chilli is gentle, but the subtle warmth from the spices is what makes this curry shine. You can, of course, add more chillies if you prefer a hotter curry.

I like a touch of sweetness with this curry, so I add some good quality mango chutney. This breaks down as it cooks and adds a lovely flavour to the sauce. I sometimes add fresh mango (ripe or even unripe) that has been roughly chopped.

A quick and easy marinade

The marinade adds more depth of flavour, penetrating the meat and adding flavour to the curry sauce. While you can omit the marinating, it really does make a difference to the finished curry.

About the spices

It takes literally moments to mix up the spices for both the marinade and the curry itself.

I am a massive fan of smoked paprika: it might not be fully traditional, but it adds a subtle smoky heat.

I am also a fan of tandoori masala powder: vibrantly red, with a gorgeous blend of spices, it adds a lovely depth of colour and a gentle spicy flavour when added near the end of cooking.

There are many ways to cook this curry: pressure cooker, hob, oven….I have given information on these types below the recipe.

Recipe: Nalli Gosht – serves 4

  • 4 medium lamb shanks
For the marinade
  • 1 bulb garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • 3 to 4” piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • handful of fresh coriander
  • 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 200g natural yoghurt
For the curry
  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 red chilli, roughly chopped (include the seeds)
  • seeds from 4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed*
  • 4 cloves, lightly crushed*
  • 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 4 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 300g natural yoghurt
  • 500ml water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon good mango chutney

*use the flat side of a knife or a pestle & mortar

To finish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon Tandoori masala powder, plus a teaspoon to stir in at the end
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
Marinate the lamb:

(1) Put the marinade ingredients into a food processor and blitz to give a fairly coarse paste.

(2) Pierce the lamb shanks several times all over with a sharp knife and smother with the marinade, covering them well. Cover and leave for several hours or ideally overnight.

Sear the lamb:

(3) The following day, remove the lamb shanks from the marinade, and scrape off most of the marinade into a bowl: this will be added to the sauce.

(4) Heat the oil in a large oven-proof dish or a pressure cooker pan and add the lamb shanks, turning them from time to time until they go golden to dark brown around the outside. Remove and set aside.

Prepare the sauce:

(5) Add the butter to the pan along with the onions and cook gently for 10 minutes on a medium heat until the onions start to soften.

(6) Add the tomato purée, chilli, salt, reserved marinade and the powdered spices and cook for 10 minutes over a gentle heat, stirring from time to time. This will start to draw out the flavour of the spices and gives a fabulous paste: the heart of this curry!
NB: you don’t want the spices to burn, so if this paste seems too dry add a splash of the water.

(7) Add the yoghurt, cinnamon stick, water and mango chutney. Bring to a simmer and then pop the lamb shanks back in. Cover and cook using whichever method you prefer: see Different ways to cook the lamb below.

Thicken the sauce:

(8) Once the lamb has cooked, remove it and place on a plate. Spoon off as much of the oil on the surface: you can use this wonderfully flavoured oil for frying meat and vegetables in.

(9) Add the masala powder and the lemon juice to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let it simmer over a lowish heat for 20 minutes or so, or until it reduces and goes fairly thick.

(10) Remove the cinnamon stick and taste the sauce, adding a little salt or more lemon juice if you feel it needs it.

(11) When you are ready to serve, put the lamb back into the thickened sauce and heat through gently. Stir in the final teaspoon of masala powder just before serving.

Different ways to cook the lamb

There are several ways to cook this dish (pressure cooker, the hob or the oven), all of which are easy and depend purely on what works best for you at the time.

Whichever method you choose, once the lamb shanks have cooked, remove them and set aside on a plate. You then let the sauce reduce on the hob without the lid where the magic continues to happen as the flavours intensify.

In the pressure cooker:

The pressure cooker is my preference, taking just 30 minutes on the HIGH setting to get the lamb beautfully tender and falling effortlessly off the bone.

On the hob:

Pop a lid on and cook over a gentle heat on the hob for about 1½-2 hours or until the lamb is very tender.

In the oven:

Cover the dish/pan, bring back to a gentle simmer and pop into the oven at 140C (fan) for about 2-2½ hours. It is worth turning the shanks over after about an hour.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

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