kari therakkal; a south indian lamb curry

my lamb therakkal
As you may know I recently visited an Indian restaurant in London that literally rocked me to my core with their beautifully exciting curries. I love Babur. And I love it so much that I have been back since (more of this another time). I was lucky enough to finagle one of their recipes from them. admittedly there was nothing devious about my approach. I asked for a recipe and they gave. Because that's the sort of lovely people they are! 

What they gave me is a recipe from their South Indian Celebration menu, which is available until 30 November. I would urge you to go to Babur to try this menu as it because it was simply sublime. Babur have also gone to the effort to pair each of the dishes on this menu with a series of really interesting beers, which in the case of the Lamb Therakkal was a Belgian beer, Chimay Blue - "an authentic Trappist beer with a light, rosy, flowery aroma and agreeable caramel notes". It was an inspired pairing.

But if you can't get down to Babur, then here is a taster of what they do. I have to say that their version was definitely superior. (Ain't that always the way!) I haven't managed to achieve their subtle yet complex flavours . . . well not quite. But this still tastes pretty good; a hearty lamb curry of ginger, coconut, turmeric, cardamom, fennel seeds and lots of black pepper. Perhaps it was missing the thick slithers of coconut fried in coconut oil of the original. (This was for me a bit of a revelation and rather delicious - the frying seemed to bring out the essential nuttiness of the coconut rather than its sweetness).

But cooking this kind of food is right up my street. I had originally described it as bein unsophisticated and the sort of meal that "mummyji" used to make. What I mean by that is that there is nothing refined about this dish; it is really peasant cooking at its best, which I suspect is
appealing to the Irish and Scottish peasant that lives within me.

On another note, I really liked the way that you parboil the meat in turmeric before stewing, reserving the cooking liquid for the body of the curry. It added so much flavour and kept the lamb beautifully moist.

Serve with a nutty brown rice or an aromatic kitchiri (a combination of basmati rice and lentils) for added texture.

500g leg or shoulder of lamb, diced (about 2 cm)
2 tsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 x large piece of cassia bark (or substitute a cinnamon stick, snapped in half)
3-4 x bay leaves
4-5 x curry leaves
3-4 x green cardamom pods (lightly crushed)
4-5 x fennel seeds
3 x red onions, thinly sliced
2 x garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tsp grated ginger (or ginger paste)
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
ground chilli (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
6 x ripe tomatoes, chopped (you could use a tin of tomatoes instead)
100 ml coconut milk
4-5 x shallots, cut in half, thinly sliced and fried until soft and a light brown, to serve (optional)
fresh coriander, finely chopped, to serve (optional)


  1. Place the lamb in a large saucepan and enough lightly salted water to cover by about 1 centimetre. Add 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and stir. Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Then strain off the lamb, but reserve at least 250 millilitres of the cooking liquid.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the dry ingredients - the cassia bark (or cinnamon stick), bay leaves, curry leaves, crushed cardamom pods and the fennel seeds. Stir so that the spices are well coated with the coconut oil and are beginning to release their flavours into the oil.
  3. Add the red onions, garlic and grated ginger (or ginger paste) to the spices and stir well to coat. Fry on a medium heat until the onion has begun to soften and brown, stirring often. This will take between 5 and 10 minutes.
  4. Once the onion has begun to darken slightly, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the strained lamb, together with 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon of ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin and chilli powder to taste (I like 1 teaspoon but you can use less!). Stir well to combine.
  5. Add the reserved cooking liquid (about 250 millilitres) and stir well.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer until the meat is very soft, adding water if needed. (This can be anything from 5 to 10 minutes - it is very forgiving!)
  9. Check the seasoning. At this stage I add a lot of ground black pepper and then finish the dish with chopped coriander. Caramelised shallots (and fried coconut) is optional.
  10. Serve with brown rice or kichiri.


asad shaykh said...

Fantastic... Thank you for sharing Rachel! :)

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Always a pleasure :) Would love the seafood rasam recipe too . . . oh and anything with urad dal . . . if you could twist Chef's arm!

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

ooh, this looks stunning!... I love a lamb curry but so rarely make it!... I have book-marked this recipe, so thank you x

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

It is a very comforting curry too . . . I had a touch of the sniffles and with a bowl of fragrant rice it was very comforting indeed!

Andrew said...

Oh how I love Babur. It is walking distance from my place and I struggle not to go there too often. There is also a fantastic Italian, Le Querce, which is a stone's throw away. It's really odd, an unpreposessing bit of South London with a dearth of good places to eat and there are 2 almost next to each other on the Brockley/Forest Hill border

mahima said...

Thanx for the recipe dear... i belong to south india and there is nothing like a combo of spice and rice....we have a community of catholics who make an amazing pork dish served with idlis(rice and urad dal cakes)...ill try ma bests to post you the recipe if you are a avid indian cuisine lover....

Lya de Putti said...

My new boyfriend made this for me (only the third curry dish he'd ever made) and it was utterly divine! I'll be posting a picture of it on my blog - Silver Screen Suppers - in the next couple of days. Babur is now on my foodie bucket list for sure. yum yum! Thanks so much for sharing this - the best home-made curry I have ever eaten...