Laal Mas (or: Fuck me, how many chillies?!)
A Kashmiri Chilli Lamb Curry
One of the most wonderful Indian chefs on the planet, in my humble opinion, is Vivek Singh. I love him, nearly as much as I love Mr FF and Nick Cave. This recipe is one he (Vivek Singh, not Nick Cave) uses, it’s based on traditional methods; what follows is my interpretation based on his… yeah, yeah you get the picture. I have made this many times because Mr FF can’t get enough of those saucy Kashmiri Chillies. This enough for 4 people, or 2 greedy buggers. It is not for the faint-hearted or bone-idle, but if you love Indian food, you will love this.
For our vegetarian readers – look away now; there will be meat. Lamb, to be precise. Go on, go get a tofu burger or something, nothing for you to see here…. Come back later, we’ll have salad.
25-35 Kashmiri Chillies
Yes, you read that right. 25-35; experiment, find your safe level. We are often experimenting here at FF Mansions. It is very important to get the RIGHT chillies. Kashmiri Chillies are the large, dried, red variety, not massively hot, in fact they taste a bit like spicy toffee in this recipe – your local Asian grocer will have them in abundance or you can get them online (see shit link at the end). Do not go to e.g. Waitrose and spend the GDP of a small country on ‘A Pinch of Chilli’ in a fancy tub; do this and you deserve all you get; and that will be derision. And, it will serve you right, arsehole.
1 small stick of Cinnamon or Cassia Bark
150g Ghee (or Vegetable Oil if you’re dieting)
250g Plain Yoghurt (whisked until smooth)
2 tsp Cumin Seeds (toasted in a dry pan)
1.5 tsp Cloves
20g Ground Coriander (this is not a misprint. 20g. 2.0. Yes, it looks a lot – just do as you’re bloody told.)
1 tsp Chilli Powder (I know…more?! Fucking hell that’s a lot of chilli)
2 tsp Salt
3 Bay Leaves
6 Green Cardamom Pods
5 Black Cardamom Pods
75g Garlic Cloves (finely chopped. I get Sven to do this, it’s a bugger of a job)
250g Onions (Sven chops these finely as well – he is an absolute marvel. We don’t call him Sven with the Fantastic Chopper for nothing)
1kg Diced Lamb (do not be tempted to chuck in any old scrag-end, you need good Lamb: organic, free-range, spent a month at a health spa just outside Zurich)
750ml Lamb Stock or water. (Please don’t use one of those bloody awful stock cubes, they are just not right, not right I tell you. They bring all sorts of interlopers to the party that you just don’t need – like that pillock nobody knew who said he was Billy from Methley, who stole my friend’s shoes, and a camera, and some other stuff. Twat.)
30g Coriander Leaves (chopped)
See? Not a bought paste, not a pre-prepared sachet of ‘Laal Mas flavouring’. Nada. This is the real McCoy.
And to drink? I reckon a six-pack of Kingfisher might just wash this little lot down. Fuck it. Get two, it takes a while to cook. Get the Bhangra on.
Put four or five of the Kashmiri Chillies aside, along with a few Cloves and a little Ghee or Oil. We’ll get to those in a while.
Do you have a broken coffee maker? I do; we are short of nothing here at FF Mansions. I am perfectly aware that this sounds like a daft question, I am full of them. But. You will need to soak 30 of your beautiful Kashmiri Chillies in boiling water, and like a cocaine-addled Hollywood starlet who ‘falls’ of a boat off Catalina Island, they just keep popping back up. I am a genius – I put them in the afore-mentioned coffee jug, add about half a pint of boiling water, and push the plunger down. Keep those suckers under. Now ignore them and get on with the rest. Do not make coffee in the broken coffee jug ever again.
In a bowl, mix the yoghurt, the ground coriander, toasted cumin seeds, chilli powder and salt together. The brown sludge that results is going to be wonderful. Trust me.
Get a big pan with a lid – a casserole-type, Le Creuset thing is good – and heat the Ghee/Oil (yes, in the pan, smart-arse). Add the cloves, cinnamon/cassia bark, both lots of cardamoms and the bay leaves. Do not ignore these – if you do, the whole fucking lot is ruined. When they start to crackle, add the garlic. You want the garlic to just be turning golden – any more and it is as bitter as my ex-mother-in-law’s heart. Be careful. In now with the chopped onions, fry until golden. It’s all a bit ‘golden’ isn’t it? How lovely. Are you happy, stirring away, drinking your beer? Good.
Meat. I like meat. Good meat. Not bad meat. I will not get into an argument about eating it. It eats us sometimes.
Add the lamb – don’t cram it all in at once, give it room (something that woman in the supermarket should have thought of before going shopping in pale pink leggings and a tank-top). When the lamb is all sealed you need to drain those chillies. Do not, repeat, do not, throw that precious elixir of chilli-water away or I will find you and I will kill you. Add the chillies to the pan and give them a good mix so they spread their love all over the meat.
If you have bought ‘good meat’ you shouldn’t have a lot of liquid in the pan. There’s bound to be some – it’s meat, it has water in it, just like us, only I am more white wine than water it must be said. Just be a little patient and let it simmer away. Is your meat browning a bit? It ought to be by now, I’ve been here ages, I’m knackered. Add the spiced yoghurt and stir it in. Here we go again – I told you, it’s a fucking complicated recipe but it will be worth it. Let the yoghurt simmer away, right away, until there is barely a yoghurty dribble left. It should, if you have paid attention, be looking very rich and brown by now. You can add your stock or water now – but, hold on there, have you remembered something? You haven’t have you? Bleedin’ ‘ell, do I have to spell it out? The chilli elixir… yes, you dimwit. You’ve chucked it down the sink haven’t you? I fucking knew it. I don’t know why I waste my time. If you are one of the 5% who haven’t thrown it away, add it in place of some of the stock/water whatever. Waste not, want not, and all that.
Bring it to a gentle boil then turn it right down. Low. (Not my favourite Bowie album.) You can quite happily let this bubble gently away for a couple of hours, keep an eye on it though, don’t let it dry out. Check the seasoning, you might need more salt. I doubt you’ll need any more chillies because it is packed to the gunwales with them.
If you can bear it, you can leave it overnight and the flavours will develop (see previous recipes for my thoughts on this). Reheat thoroughly though or you will die.
Just before serving – make the ‘tadka’ with the saved chillies, cloves, ghee/oil. Heat the ghee/oil in a large ladle – or a small pan – until fairly hot. Throw in the saved spices and stir, you want them to crackle. Pour this over the hot Laal Mas. Add the fresh Coriander leaves; there you have it, Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt (although, in truth, Uncle Bob was never the same after the accident). Get it to the table, receive huge praise from the lazy bastards who’ve sat on their backsides and not lifted a finger to help. Have a beer, you deserve it.
FF Notes: You can serve this with Plain Basmati Rice, or Pillau, or chappati, or Naan, or all of these. Try and get hold of an industrial quantity of natural yoghurt as well – just saying. It’s a big, generous dish, great for parties – make double. God help your eyes with 70+ chillies cooking though.
Here’s a nice thing – a veritable poem to the mysteries of the spice box. I feel exactly like this when I open up my Tupperware:
“Inside, the box was divided into tiered chambers, each with a lacquered lid, and these held a selection of ground and whole spices: sage, turmeric, cumin, ginger, mustard, cinnamon, asafoetida, mace, cayenne, and cloves. I felt like an emperor receiving the treasures of a new country. The odour rising from the box was like a clambering vine wrapping itself thickly around my head, musky with the deep minerals of the earth and dusting my shoulders with a rainbow of pollen.” ― Eli Brown, Cinnamon and Gunpowder
That link I mentioned for Kashmiri Chillies: http://www.amazon.co.uk/WHOLE-KASHMIRI-CHILLIES-CHILLI-CHILLY/dp/B00CX39KB2/ref=sr_1_6?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1458149427&sr=1-6&keywords=kashmiri+chillies+whole
Look, sorry, I am not bloody Bill Gates right?! I do not (yet) know how make these bastard links more elegant. I will learn. Sven will teach me when he gets back from his ‘Wax Yourself Thin’ evening class.
Sven’s back – very shiny. And thinner. Here you go. Isn’t he just fabulous?