Eating Rogan Josh as a 9yr old in a typical Kashmiri household with Indian bread on the side to scoop out the thick gravy has been one of my fondest food memories. The host for the meal (Mr Mamoon was the manager of the hotel we stayed at) invited my parent over to sample a traditional kashmiri meal at his family home in Pahalgam. ‘Zafrani Rogan Josh’ – as I happily tucked into it; little did I realise that even today the flavours would linger on my taste buds.
It’s a dish I know most people living in India & UK absolutely love and one I can assure you gets ordered time and time again in your local Indian. But I think after sampling various different versions of it, it’s fair to say nothing comes close to what I ate in Kashmir. But then again I wouldn’t expect it to, some food memories are better left untouched for it’s those that you remember dearly.
As always my food journey of testing, sampling and cooking recipes continues to evolve. A few years back on one of my yearly visits to India my mother’s childhood friend shared this recipe with us. It was scribbled on a small piece of paper with absolutely no measurements and just had notes saying ‘a bit of this or a touch of that’. I couldn’t wait to try it out for the family once I got back home, though nervously hoping that I would get all the proportions right even though there weren’t any on the piece of paper! It’s been a triumph and one that has stayed with me for 6 years now. I have cooked it so often and relish it every single time. What stands out for me in the recipe is its simplicity but more importantly eating it takes me back to when I first sampled it as a young girl.
The list of ingredients in my recipe is small (relatively – I love that!) but those with a very distant flavour. In the olden days it was said that ‘Ratan jog’ was used in the dish. A herb from the region of Kashmir; ground down to a powder which is where the dish gets its vibrant red colour. As an alternative, I would most certainly recommend getting hold of Kashmiri chilli powder which lends a beautiful red tinge to the sauce that coats the meat but isn’t very high on heat. If you are using regular chilli powder ½ tsp should be good though if you prefer a hot curry add a touch more. Also the addition of saffron lends to the appearance. Traditionally in India they would use goat meat though boneless lamb from the shoulder would be a perfect alternative.
For the marinade, whisk together the ginger paste, Greek yoghurt and Kashmiri chilli powder. Add the lamb to the dish, coating all pieces well marinate for 2-3 hrs or even overnight. Grind all the spice powder ingredients in a coffee grinder and set aside
Heat the oil over a medium heat in a heavy based sauce pan; add the asafoetida letting it sizzle for 20-30 seconds. Add the meat along with its marinade and cook for 40 minutes sealing and browning the pieces all over. Make sure to stir continuously and scrap off the bottom of the pan to prevent it sticking
Add the spice powder stirring to mix in well cooking for 3-4 minutes. At this stage, also add the saffron water along with the strands. Add a touch more water only if required or you feel it’s too dry. Lower the heat and simmer with the lid on for 15-17 minutes until the lamb is tender and cooked all the way through
Garnish with fresh coriander and season to taste. Serve with your favourite Indian bread or pulao