The rogan josh recipe I give here is fairly traditional (or as far as I can tell, not actually being a 16th century Kashmiri). In Kashmir itself Rogan Josh may not be the most famous dish of the region, but in the west, and certainly in the UK, it is a classic and very popular dish. The dish has also undergone a great deal of modification, and agreement on authenticity is now next to impossible. The dish as cooked in Kashmir would rarely be seen outside that region.
The name is a corruption of the Persian words, rogan meaning fat or oil (or possible clarified butter ghee) and josh meaning hot or passionate, and this is essential a dish which the moghuls adapted from the korma, a dish of Persian origin.
Rogan josh should be a bright red colour and original rogan josh recipes would have Kashmiri red chillis (which are similar to paprika) and ratan jot which is the root of a herb grown in Kashmir and is pretty unobtainable now. (Other sources assert that the colour comes from a local flower - muawal - but I don't suppose many have access to this either) A lot of Indian restaurants now use red food colour in this (and in tandoori chicken for which this herb was also used).
The traditional meat would have been mutton (this would most likely have been goat mutton). It is now made with all manner of meats but here we will stick reasonably close to tradition and use lamb. If you can get to a Halal butcher then you should be able to get mutton which is really tasty. If you want to up the authenticity of your rogan josh then you can buy goat mutton on the web.
Notes on Ingredients
Onions, garlic and root ginger. I have been told that onions and garlic are not strictly authentic in rogan josh; and indeed there are regions of Kashmir which would not use these. If you were a Hindu Pandit of Kashmir or a Jain, you would not eat these things, instead you would use a good pinch of asafetida (hing) and maybe some ginger powder. I have also seen references to the use of a local shallot-like onion.
Spices If you feel the urge to cheat with this dish then I would avoid the ready made sauces but there is a really good spice mix you can get from Seasoned Pioneers. This has been used by Delia Smith in her 'How to Cheat at Cooking' book/series. It's pretty good stuff. Seasoned Pioneers Rogan Josh Spice Blend
Cumin. Most rogan josh recipes simply say cumin but traditionally you would use black cumin (shahi or kali jeera) in this dish which is better, but sometimes is a little hard to find.
Cardamom. Some recipes use black cardamom (which has a slightly earthier taste) and I have seen recipes with both, I prefer green cardamoms. You would only need 2 black cardamoms in these quantities.
Paprika. If you can get the original ingredients, Kashmiri red chillis and ratan jot, then use about 2 teaspoon dried red chillis and 1 teaspoon ratan jot. Use about 2-3 drops red food colour instead of ratan jot if you wish.
Chilli. You can vary the amount to suit your tastes - see note at the end
Yoghurt. Although you rarely see rogan josh recipes that don't use yoghurt it may not be historically traditional. Some people like to mix a little cornflower into the yoghurt to stabilise it and stop it curdling - optional.
Salt. I never use in this dish but some people like maybe ½ teaspoon.
Oil. Use ghee if you can, this is best for this dish. Unsalted butter is acceptable or vegetable oil if you have to.
Put the diced lamb in a non-metallic bowl and mix with the yoghurt and paprika. Set this aside for about an hour.
Heat a dry frying pan and throw in the cumin seeds, peppercorns, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves and roast till the cumin seeds turn a shade darker.
Grind all these spices together with the cardamom seeds.
Put onion, garlic and ginger root in a food processor or blender with a drop of water and make a paste.
Heat the ghee.
Put in the paste and fry for about 2 minutes.
Add the ground spices, and the chilli powder and fry for about a minute.
Add the lamb/yoghurt mixture and fry on high heat until the meat is sealed stirring all the time.
Turn down the heat and cook on a low heat until the lamb is tender - about an hour or so.
Notes on Method
Rogan josh recipes are many and it is a dish which has undergone many modifications over time (even within Kashmir, let alone what us foreigners have done to it) and so there are many variations on this - also see the optional extras bit at the end.
Probably the most significantly different technique that I have come across is to seal the lamb first in a little oil, set it aside and then add the lamb to the cooked paste and spices followed by the yoghurt. This is fine, the result is not stunningly different; personally I like to marinate the meat as I have described to tenderise and impart flavour.
If you simmer in a pan, use a lid and keep watch that it does not dry out; add a little water if necessary. The end result should not be soupy but neither should it be dry - a nice rich sauce is what you're after. I have used a slow cooker for simmering this dish after it has all been cooked in the pan, this works well.
Spices. I have seen rogan josh recipes which also add coriander, garam masala, turmeric. This is meant to be a simple rustic dish and personally I think these overcomplicate the taste. Garnishing with coriander leaves is nice though.
Tomatoes. Well this does make the dish red and does make an appearance in a lot of restaurant versions of the dish. It is unlikely to be at all traditional as the tomato was introduced to India by the Europeans in the 16th century. It will add some sweetness to the dish; which you may or may not think is appropriate.
Bell Peppers. Another probably recent addition seen in some rogan josh recipes; actually I quite like this one and sometimes use the large pointy sweet peppers.
Cream. Hmmm definitely not traditional, though some rogan josh recipes do include it, real old style recipes might not even have used yoghurt - just water. It will make the dish, well, creamy; I don't think it needs it though, Maybe stir in a little more yoghurt at the end if you want to give it a 'finish'.
Another interesting option is the vegetarian version - I may get round to this at some point. I have seen Jamie Oliver's Vegetarian Rogan Josh recipe and not only did it look interesting, but when my local pub made it (with some input from this recipe here and a little advise from yours truly!) it turned out really well and was praised by everyone who tried it. The main ingredients are butternut squash and chickpeas in place of the meat. The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals - here's a link.
Just like to comment that I was recently required to cook a rogan josh with no chilli at all (the lady I was cooking for has an allergy although she can do paprika). This is a challenge since you will really lay the taste of the dish bare, without any disguising hotness.
I was really quite worried about this and tasted the dish a few times during cooking. Thinking it would not be tasty enough I added a little salt. After cooking for about an hour or so the dish was absolutely wonderful - maybe a touch too salty!!
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