Khorma Karma

When the weather gets chilly we pull out our favorite comfort food recipes to combat the cold. It is also a good time to experiment with making favorite dishes we have never attempted at home.

Indian cuisine has been our go-to comfort food for two decades now, so when cold weather reached the desert, we thought we would cobble together a recipe for our favorite lamb dish: lamb shahi khorma.

During the winters of the late nineties and early aughts, we went often to Mr. India, our favorite Indian restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The wind howled, the temperature was unspeakably low, the snow squeaked under our feet as we stumbled over snow banks, some taller than we.

Once inside the restaurant, the chill faded away and we were embraced by the warmth of the family who ran the restaurant and the scent of exotic spices. The fragrant steaming dishes warmed our souls and bellies alike.

Lamb Shahi Khorma was one of our favorites there; we also ordered it occasionally made with chicken. This is a great option for those who don't like lamb, or don't eat red meat. (Does that remind you of the scene in My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding - "What? You don't eat meat? That's okay, I make you lamb.") If you make this recipe using chicken, I recommend using thighs and reducing the braising time.

Like many Indian dishes, this one is not difficult but it requires time. You need a chunk of time from start to finish, much of which is braising time in the oven. This is a good thing, as it warms the kitchen and fills the house with enticing perfumes. And it is the perfect time to page through the new issue of your favorite cooking magazine.

We found these candied fennel seeds to be a refreshing finale for our Khorma.
We served ours with basmati rice, with raita and a tamarind chutney (recipe to come). A little naan on the side was perfect for getting every last bit of the sauce.

Keep warm!

~ David

Lamb Shahi Khorma

1/2 cup ghee
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground mace
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 pounds lean boneless lamb, from the leg, in 1½-inch cubes
1 cup plain whole milk yoghurt
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
milk, if needed
raita, chutney, and naan, for serving

Preheat oven to 275°F. Heat the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until onions turn caramel brown - about 20 minutes. Add the ginger and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add cumin mace, cinnamon, garam masala, cayenne, and paprika; stir to distribute the spices, and cook for 1 minute.

Dry the lamb chunks thoroughly with paper towels. Increase heat to high and add lamb to the pot. Brown on all sides, turning and tossing them quickly, for about 5 minutes. Add half the yoghurt, half of the cream, and the salt; bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat, cover, and place in the pre-heated oven to braise for 2 hours. Stir the meat occasionally while it is in the oven to keep the sauce from burning. If the sauce completely evaporates, add a little milk. Remove the pot from the oven, and stir in remaining yoghurt and cream.

Serve with basmati rice, raita, chutney, and naan.

Serves 6-8.

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