At about midnight I started to finish the lamb dish I began before the butchery class: Rogan Josh. A northern Moghul-style dish from India it has many variations, but most focus on saffron, yoghurt and garam masala specific to the area. As my wonderful Indian guide, Mr. Gupta, insisted, “All good things come from Kashmir!”, I always try my best to become as Kashmiri as possible while prepping my favourite lamb dish.
One problem I faced was the reason why I was making curried lamb in the first place: I had a Cost-Co tray of lamb chops that were no longer red in colour after sitting in the fridge for three days. I like my lamb chops to be fresh, as they usually only receive minor salt and prep beyond light grilling. Problem one causes the secondary issue of using beautiful, tender meat in a braising dish that will toughen it. The issue was resolved by not overcooking the meat, but by focusing on softening the onion and browning the spices to ensure a decent sauce. Before leaving for my workshop I tossed the lamb that I had deboned from the lamb chops into the mix. I also did what I often do, but do not recommend to others for safety reasons. I left the lamb in the sauce, off heat, in a covered Le Creuset pot for three hours. The pot retains heat for a few hours, thereby keeping away most health and safety issues with such a practice.
My return found the lamb still tender, and ready for the final higher heat treatment. Adding about a cup of Greek Yoghurt to the mix and a knob of butter, the lamb dish known as Rogan Josh was completed. While not as dark as a traditional version, due to the lack of browning of the onions and ghee, it was a gorgeous “white-man’s” version. When I use that term, it means that I simply cannot make an authentic, Indian dish made by a native of the country who grew up with this dish like I might have grown up with hamburgers. What I can do is rebalance the flavours to my palette and synthesize the ideas into a style of Indian food that is rich, exotic but imperceptibly different in its nuances unless you are a true aficionado. In other words: I make wicked Indian-style food for a non-Indian, and I hope that is a fair, non-offensive analysis by any standards.
I miss India. Actually, I long for it and yearn to return to India, though it was the harshest place I have yet travelled to. I often argue with myself that it was harsh because I was soft and had not really travelled far before. I want to go back this year for a few weeks on a tour through the holy places of Amritsar, Varanasi and into the South, but it would take a tonne of planning and health precautions. Lots of Moksha yoga and Imodium. Like all things Indian, it will remain a mystery to me, but that will never stop me from returning to the mystery as many times as I can while I can.