Saturday night eatin: Meera Sodha’s Howrah Express cinnamon lamb curry

A few weeks ago I did something that I don’t do very often: ordered a takeaway. I don’t do this very often because it is a) expensive and b) disappointing. I love the idea of someone delivering my dinner, but unfortunately, once I start eating, it never feels quite like my dinner; generally, it is oversalted, or overcooked; if there are vegetables, they tend to be soggy and if there is rice, it is just the wrong side of dry, with very little taste. At a push, a pizza works, but how often do they arrive hot and crisp, rather than lukewarm and droopy?

Of course, the person on the end of the telephone doesn’t know how I like my food seasoned, so I can’t blame them. But I can blame myself for succumbing to the easy £20 answer, when I know how to cook, and often much prefer the results…and it is SO much cheaper. Granted, the time required ‘costs’ you money, but for a little effort you can make something so much more delicious, and personally satisfying.

Like this, my current Saturday night squeeze, a cinnamon lamb curry that has slipped into my repertoire like an old friend since January. Like most Meera Sodha recipes it requires hardly any shopping, and very few ‘difficult-to-find’ ingredients, yet it tastes like you’ve spent an age shopping in Southall. It takes about 20-30 minutes of prep, about an hour to cook, and, served with some spiced cabbage, this perfect steamed rice and some homemade raita it beats standing on the doorstep waving to the moped that has just gone to the wrong house…

Cinnamon lamb curry

Cinnamon lamb curry

Howrah Express cinnamon lamb curry (adapted from Made in India; do yourself a favour and buy the book; it is full of great recipes and will save you a fortune in bad curry)

Makes enough for 4
(I make this much so there is plenty for lunch the next day; it reheats brilliantly)

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
garlic, 4 cloves
oil, 2 tablespoons (Sodha uses rapeseed, so do I, but something neutral, like sunflower, would work too)
tinned tomatoes, 400g (the recipe, cut in half, would suggest 200g but I tend to chuck the whole tin in)
chilli powder, ¾ tsp
ground cumin, 1 tsp
ground cinnamon, ¾ tbsp
salt, ¾ tsp
full-fat yoghurt, 75ml

Shopping list
lamb neck fillet, 600g (you can use shoulder but it is much fattier, so you may need to up the spices)
garam masala, ¾ tsp

How to
1. Peel and finely chop the onion and the garlic.

2. Put the oil into a large, lidded casserole dish over a medium heat. Once it is hot, add the onions and cook until golden (the recipe says this will take 8-10 minutes but it might take a tad longer) then add the garlic, stir to mix in and cook for a couple more minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, bashing them a bit to crush them and cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the mixture is thick and there is not much juice running from the tomatoes.

4. Whilst the tomatoes are cooking, chop the neck fillet into pieces about 2cm thick.

5. Stir the chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt and garam masala into the tomatoes, then add the lamb and cook until coloured all over.

6. Once the meat has coloured all over, stir in the yogurt a spoonful at a time, then add enough warm water to just cover the lamb (50-100ml). Bring to the boil, cover then lower the heat and leave to simmer until the meat is falling apart (about 60-90 minutes). Whilst the meat is cooking, make some spiced cabbage and raita to go with it (see below). If, at the end of the cooking time, you want a thicker sauce, remove the lid and reduce the sauce a little.

7. Serve with steamed rice, some spiced spring greens and pomegranate raita.

Spiced spring cabbage
Makes enough for 4 as a side. Again, I make this much so there is extra for lunch the next day.

Spiced spring cabbage

Spiced spring cabbage

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
onion, 1
oil, 2 tbsp (again rapeseed if you have it, or something neutral)
ground cumin, 1 tsp
chilli powder, ¾ tsp
tomato purée, 1 tbsp
salt, 1 tsp

Shopping list
mustard seeds, 2 tsp
cabbage, 1 head (about 700g; I’ve made this with spring greens, Savoy and Hispi cabbage; they all work equally well)
ground turmeric, ½ tsp

How to
1. Peel and finely slice the onion.

2. Heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan and, once hot, add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop. Add the onion and cook until it is nice and soft (about 5-10 minutes).

3. Whilst the onion is cooking, remove any damaged/wilted leaves from the cabbage, discard the stalk if necessary, then slice it crossways into thin strips.

4. Stir the cabbage into the onion, add 50ml of warm water, then cover and cook for five minutes.

5. Add the cumin, chilli powder, tomato purée, salt and turmeric, stir in well then cover and cook until the cabbage is lovely and soft (again, about 5-10 minutes), with barely any crunch left.

Pomegranate and mint raita
I often miss the gentle flavour of raita when eating curry at home, so now I make it myself.

Pomegranate and mint raita

Pomegranate and mint raita

Makes enough for 2

Cupboard, or things you may already have
cumin seeds, ½ tsp
full-fat yogurt, 250ml
salt, a pinch
caster sugar, a pinch

Shopping list
pomegranate, ½ or a good handful of the seeds
fresh mint leaves, about 10g (a small handful)

How to
1. Deseed the pomegranate, if necessary, using whichever method suits you best. I like to slice the pomegranate into wedges, then loosen the seeds in a bowlful of water. This also helps separate the seeds from the pith.

2. Finely chop the mint leaves.

3. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat, then dry-fry the cumin seeds until you can smell them (a couple of minutes). Once they smell toasty, tip them into a pestle and mortar (or a spice-grinder, if you have one) and crush/grind them coarsely.

3. Mix the cumin with the yogurt, salt, sugar, pomegranate seeds and mint and stir together well. Taste and add more salt, sugar and mint to taste.


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