My ex-boyfriend Sasha taught me to cook this curry. His biological dad had showed him how in an effort to bring him closer to his Jamaican roots (he had been adopted by a white family from Wilsden and had apparently grown up eating too much Yorkshire pudding).
The original recipe was made with goat but Sasha and I used lamb as it was easier to get hold of (well in our Southwark branch of Tesco at least). Back in those days this was our Sunday dinner of choice which we ate in preference to a traditional English roast – the wonderful aromatic smells of this curry cooking could rival any roast beef dinner.
I haven’t cooked this dish in very long time (in fact my husband Ben couldn’t remember me ever cooking it for him) but my bumper chilli crop bought it to mind. The flavours are so deep and delicious that I realise now why we used to eat it every week. I also realise why I was a stone and a half heavier in those days – with all that lovely lamb fat melting into the sauce and the coconut milk seeped rice it’s seriously delicious but not one for the faint hearted.
Jamaican lamb curry
- Half a lamb shoulder, approximately 1.3kg (about 630g prepared weight)
For the marinade
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon of fresh (or dried) thyme, stalks removed
- 1 heaped teaspoon of Dunn’s River ‘All purpose’ or ‘Caribbean everyday seasoning’ (or similar Caribbean seasoning)
- 2 fresh chillies, chopped
- ½ teaspoon of ground mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of garam masala
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- A pinch of salt and 3 or 4 twists of the pepper mill
For the sauce
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- A Knorr beef stock pot
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- Water to cover
First you need to prepare the lamb. I like to buy mine with the shoulder bone still in and butcher it myself. I’m not that skilled but this way I can trim off as much of the fat as possible and keep the bones for the sauce. If you don’t have time for this (or if you’re not a fan of handling meat) then ask your butcher to do this for you or buy it ready diced from the supermarket.
Remove all the meat from the bone, chop into good size chunks (about 3 cm square if you can, although if you’re not skilled at butchery you may have some smaller pieces and this is absolutely fine).
Put the meat and the bones in a mixing bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. Give everything a good massage with your hands then cover with cling film and place in the fridge for the flavours to mingle. Leave this for anywhere between 6 and 24 hours but the longer the better really.
When you’re ready to start cooking remove the meat from the fridge and let it come back to room temperature. Then heat a little oil in a frying pan and brown the meat in batches until it’s a lovely dark brown colour on both sides (see photo below, the pieces on the right hand side are the colour you want). Don’t overcrowd the pan and take your time here as this step is essential for the deep meaty flavour. The lamb does not need to cook through at this stage. Once browned put the lamb pieces in a large casserole dish with a lid. I also brown off the bones and add these to the pot to improve the flavour of the sauce.
Once all the lamb is browned use the same pan to fry the onions until brown. Then add the tomatoes, tomato puree and stock pot to the pan and bring to a simmer. Pour this mixture into the casserole dish, then add enough water to just cover all the meat.
Put on the lid and cook in an oven preheated to 180oC for two hours. After this time turn the oven down to 140oC and cook for a further 2-3 hours (or until the meat is very tender). You will need to check the curry from time to time during this period and add a little more water if the sauce is too dry. After a couple of hours you should also check the seasoning and add a little more salt and/or chilli if necessary according to your own personal taste.
Before serving remove the lamb bones. Serve with rice and peas.
Rice and peas
This is not Sasha’s recipe but my very own. It’s basically the brilliant Delia method of cooking rice (which has appeared on this blog before) with the addition of coconut milk, thyme, seasoning and kidney beans.
It’s important to note that ‘peas’ actually means ‘kidney beans’ here (a Jamaican lingo thing). I love this so much that I could easily eat it as a dish all by itself.
Serves 2-4 depending on appetite
- Half a pint of basmati rice
- A little butter or oil
- A tin of coconut milk and enough water to make up to 1 pint
- A Knorr chicken stock pot (or similar concentrated stock)
- ½ a teaspoon of Dunn’s River ‘All purpose’ or ‘Caribbean everyday seasoning’ (or similar)
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
- A tin of kidney beans
Put a small dollop of butter or a dash of oil into a small saucepan and put it on a low heat on the hob. Add the sprigs of thyme, the ½ teaspoon of seasoning and the kidney beans.
In a measuring jug tip in half a pint of basmati rice. Pour the rice into the saucepan with the butter/oil and seasoning and give it a good stir.
Tip the coconut milk into a measuring jug then add the stock pot and enough water to make up 1 pint. Then tip this into a saucepan (separate from the one the rice is in) and bring to the boil.
Tip the heated coconut mixture into the saucepan with the rice and bring back up to the boil. Then put on a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down low. Cook for 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid.
After 15 minutes fluff up the rice with a fork. If it’s not quite done then put the lid back on, remove from the heat and leave it to steam for a further five minutes.