“Korma” the word itself sums up very different ideas of what the dish would taste and look like in peoples mind.
I’m a huge fan of Mughlai cooking and there are some brilliant restaurants dotted about across cities in India where you will find kebabs, niharis, rezalas and kheema dishes as part of their delectable mouth watering repertoire on the menu. All typical of mughlai cooking that are wonderful in their own right with layers of flavour, cooked to perfection and definitely worth a try. Though some of these are unheard of in UK restaurants; one thing that I know almost everyone would relate to is kormas. In India korma is associated with being a rich dinner party dish that is an amalgamation of ground spices; typically spices like chilli and turmeric powders would be part of the dish but more luxurious spices are also added to enhance flavour. The use of nutmeg, mace, cardamom and saffron are quite synonymous with kormas adding that delicate fragrance to the dish too; all laced in with yoghurt or ground pastes made from nuts or seed. Depending on regional influences (e.g. South Indians have their own unique take on cooking a korma or kurma as its known which is very delish!) coconut milk or grated coconut is used as well. Fresh green chillies and ground spices along with garam masala add the required heat to the dish.
I often recommend people try the korma I cook with a reassurance that there are more variations than just the mild variety commonly served. In UK a korma is usually something that is recommended for anyone who prefers a mild curry. It is usual white or pale in colour with little spicing and topped with raisins and almonds to bring out the richness of the dish.
My recipe below is based around my influence eating it whilst visiting traditional homes and restaurants serving some of the best ‘Nalli Korma’ in a rich gravy, slow cooked goat shanks with the meat falling off the bone all mopped up with soft roomali rotis and red onion salad. My memories of eating it are of pure pleasure and the best part is they come flooding back when I cook it. I have used lamb leg shanks which are readily available. You can opt for shoulder shanks too though goat shanks would be ideal as they are smaller in size.
Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan. Fry the onions on a medium heat for 10-12minutes until softened & golden brown. Set aside and leave to cool. Blend with a couple of tablespoons of water to a smooth paste. Separately in a wet grinder blend the chillies, ginger & garlic to a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining oil in a heavy based sauce pan. Add the black peppercorn, bay leaves, cardamom pods & cinnamon stick. Sizzle and let them infuse the oil for 20 seconds or so. Add the green chilli, ginger & garlic paste and sauté for a minute. Now at the lamb shanks and seal them on a medium to high heat all over. Turn them over every few minutes to get an even colour on all sides. This will take 5-7 minutes.
Now lower the heat and add the spiced yoghurt mix. Stir well to make sure the yoghurt doesn’t split and coats the meat well. Cook for 2 minutes and at this stage mix in the fried onion mix paste. Stir and add the water, bring the gravy to a boil and simmer. Cook for a further hour and 15 mins on a low heat with the lid on until the meat is succulent and cooked through. Stir half way and if the gravy looks like it’s thickened add an extra 100mls of water.
Season to taste and add the garam masala & mace powder. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for a couple of minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander, ginger & mint and some lemon juice. Serve with parathas, rotis or even some steamed rice.