Tamil style Kothu kari Kulambu

Spicy Minced Lamb with fennel, chilli & tomato

When people think of cooking minced lamb the one that always comes to mind is Keema with green peas or Keema pav. As much as both are so very delicious there is a brilliant variety of recipes to cook minced lamb when it comes to Indian recipes.

I have just spent the last month travelling away with work and a visit to South India reminded me how amazing the regions in the southern part of the subcontinent are. The food, spices, cooking techniques and more than anything the people. So many wonderful people who cooked delicious Tamil, keralan and Maratha inspired fare during my stay. The region is of course made up of Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu with each state renowned for their distinct style and recipes. During my visit to Tamil Nadu I had a chance to check out wholesale markets, restaurants and also meet local families to learn more about their age old recipes and sample some of the best home cooked meals.

This ‘Kulambu’ (seasoned curry) is made with lamb and an earthy smoky spice paste. The recipe originally was cooked for me at a local home by the cook during my stay. There were no measurements (as with most Indian recipes!) but just watching her helped me pick up a few ideas on how to cook this delicious Kothu kari Kulambu. So thank you Asha!

Tamil Kothukari Kulambu (2)

I have adapted the recipe to suit how we cook in the west. The base of this dish is the spice paste and that’s where all the flavours is so make sure to give the spices enough time to fry. I have used kashmiri chillies to make the paste although any mild dried chilli would be good. While cooking the curry whole garlic cloves are added at the start, this is also something my mother would do for dishes from the west of India too. Whole garlic cloves infuse the oil and also go brown which adds more depth to the gravy at the end while simmering.


  1. Blend 6 cloves of garlic along with all the ginger and chilli in a grinder to a smooth paste with a splash of water. Add this paste to a large mixing bowl along with the minced lamb. Mix well and set aside while you make the spice paste.

  2. For the spice paste; in a large frying pan heat the oil over a low heat. Add the coriander seeds along with the fennel, cumin and dried chillies. Fry this stirring often for 8 minutes. Now add the curry leaves (be careful as they begin to splutter) and fry for a further 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave to cool. Blend this in a mixer/ grinder with 80mls water to a smooth and thick paste. Set aside while you make the curry.

  3. In a heavy bottom large sauce pan heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the remaining 2 cloves of garlic along with the curry leaves. As they splutter tip in the chopped onions. Fry for 10-12 minutes and stir continuously as they begin to soften.

  4. Now add the chopped tomatoes and fry for a further 6 minutes. The tomatoes will go slightly mushy. Turn the heat up slightly and add the marinated minced lamb. Fry the lamb for 8 minutes stirring well to mix.

    Tamil Kothukari Kulambu (3)

  5. Turn the heat back to medium and add the spice paste making sure to mix it in. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Season to taste. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer on a low heat with a lid on for 25 minutes. Stir half way through cooking.

  6. At this stage the keema curry will be rich and will have thickened. Turn the heat off and garnish with coriander and lemon juice. Serve with flaky paratha, some soft dosa or simply with chapattis.

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