I wanted to make this recipe as soon as I saw a chef cooking it on Rick Stein’s India series on tv. It looked like a perfect low carb curry and also a perfect dish to make in the slow cooker (crockpot). I googled the recipe and how Rick Stein writes it in his book is a bit different to how the chef made it in the programme. I sort of combined the two, and didn’t add coconut milk at the end because it’s a bit carby and I don’t think it needs it. Traditionally it’s a mutton curry but lamb shanks are often used instead and that’s what I used. Note that the lamb shanks need to be marinaded overnight, although I’m not sure quite how much difference it makes as the lamb is meltingly tender after 7 hours in the slow cooker anyway, and the spices in the sauce are amazing.
The story of the curry and the chef cooking the recipe is at 52 mins 20 secs on BBC iplayer. The recipe in Rick Stein’s India book is on page 254 so if you want to make it his way, have a look there – the way I did it is slightly (not much) different. Also, those versions aren’t done in a slow cooker and have cooking times of 4 and 3 hours respectively. I love being able to do all the work first thing in the morning, though, and have the glorious smell permeating the house all day.
For the marinade…
3cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp greek yoghurt
Half teaspoon turmeric
3 lamb shanks (Rick Stein’s recipe says 6 so you could use more, I just like a lot of sauce versus meat)
4cm stick of cinnamon
2 large pieces of mace
6 berries of allspice (recipe said cloves but I can’t bear them)
2 stars of star anise
2 or 3 bay leaves
7 whole cardamom pods
1 large onion (I used the equivalent in shallots, as they are lower carb)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3cm piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp coriander seed powder
1 tbsp chilli powder, preferably Kashmiri chilli powder
I added 1 tsp of smoked paprika, or pimentòn, but this wasn’t in either recipe.
A good grating of nutmeg (not in recipe either)
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala powder
200g tin of plum tomatoes
50g almond butter (100% almonds)
Mix the ingredients for the marinade and slather it all over the lamb. Chill in the fridge overnight. That quantity made loads and would easily have been enough for 6 shanks.
Put the shallots, garlic and ginger in the food processor and whizz to a paste or puree.
Melt some butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the whole spices for a minute. Add the shallot puree and fry on a low to medium heat for about ten minutes until the onion has coloured a little. I think probably due to the bay leaves, mine went pale green – not entirely the golden I was inspecting.
Meanwhile, gently toast the cashews in a dry pan until they have taken on some colour, then put them in the blender/food processor with the tin of tomatoes and the almond butter and blitz them together. The chef used cremed cashews and the book recipe uses whole raw cashews. I thought I’d go somewhere in the middle and use toasted nuts and some nut butter. The almond is a lower carb (6.7%), hence I used that instead of cashew. The almond butter is made of just almonds an a bit of sea salt. I could eat a whole jar of it, it’s so delicious.
When the shallot mix is ready, add 100ml water and bring to a simmer. Now add the powdered spices and stir gently for a minute or two, before adding the lamb shanks and marinade. Now Rick Stein’s recipe calls for you to cook over a moderate heat to ‘brown’ the lamb, but I was concerned about overcooking the spices so I transferred the shanks to a separate pan (coated with some of the sauce) to cook them on a higher heat to get some colour. I then added them back into the pan.
Pour in the tomato and cashew puree. Bring back to a simmer and transfer to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours. In the chef’s version, he tied the mutton shanks together. I prefer to remove bones before I eat so I lifted each shank out and took the meat off the bone – well actually the meat falls straight off the bone as soon as you touch it, as all the fat has dissolved off and the lamb is meltingly tender. If a lot of oil collects on the top during cooking, I tend to drain the excess off using a ladle.
I served this with Sage’s spiced cauliflower and spinach dishes. We got 4 very generous portions out of the curry (and there’s still some left for my lunch). ;-) It’s absolutely delicious!