This flavour-packed curry can be made in the oven for an easy weeknight dinner or on the stove for a spicier, deeper-coloured version. This dish is a family favourite of Vancouver chef Vikram Vij (of the restaurants Vij's and Rangoli) and his wife Meeru Dhalwala — it's from their newest cookbook, Vij's At Home: Relax, Honey.
1/3 to 1/2 cup cooking oil
2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
1/2 tsp asafoetida (optional)
4 tbsp chopped garlic (12 medium cloves)
3/4 cup crushed canned tomatoes
1-1/2 tsp turmeric
1-1/2 tbsp ground black mustard seeds (optional)
1-1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp ground cumin
10-12 green cardamom pods, lightly pounded
1 tbsp salt
3 lb. stewing lamb, trimmed of fat and cubed
1 cup water (for oven method) or 2 cups water (for stove top method)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt (minimum 2%) or 3/4 cup whipping cream (buttermilk or yogurt gives the curry a slight tang, whereas the cream makes it richer)
Step 1: Move your oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F.
Step 2: Place all ingredients in a large casserole dish and mix until well combined.
Step 3: Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.
Step 4: Using a sharp knife, poke a piece of lamb to make sure it is tender. If it is still slightly tough in the centre, bake for another 15-30 minutes, or until cooked. Turn off the heat and allow lamb to rest in the oven, covered, until serving time.
Stove Top Method
Step 1: Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan on high for 1 minute.
Step 2: Add onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until golden.
Step 3: Add asafoetida and stir for 1 minute.
Step 4: Stir in garlic and sauté until golden, 1-2 minutes.
Step 5: Reduce the heat to medium and stir in tomatoes. Add turmeric, mustard seeds, cayenne, paprika, cumin, cardamom and salt, stir and cook for 5 minutes, or until oil glistens on the tomatoes.
Step 6: Stir in lamb, mixing until well combined. Pour in water and mix well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 50 minutes.
Step 7: Place buttermilk (or yogurt or cream) in a medium bowl. To prevent curdling, whisk about 1 cup of the hot curry into the buttermilk (or yogurt or cream), then pour the mixture into the pot of curry. Cover and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
Step 8: Using a sharp knife, poke a piece of lamb to make sure it is tender. If it is still slightly tough in the centre, continue cooking for another 15 minutes, or until tender. (It shouldn't take longer than 1-1/2 hours to cook the lamb.) Turn off the heat and allow lamb to rest on the stove, covered, until serving time. Serve with rice, naan bread, lentil curry, or even over boiled, salted potatoes.
Reprinted with permission from Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala's Vij's At Home: Relax, Honey (2010 Douglas & McIntyre).