Karl’s Rogan Josh

Jan, Eilene, and I went to Napa on a day-trip. I went mostly to go to Whole Spice for the spices I can’t get around the South Bay—yes, I could have bought them on-line, but you really do not know what you are getting if you cannot smell the spices. We also went to find the lamb bacon that Jan had tried the last time she was there at the Fatted Calf.

Karl’s Rogan Josh

Karl’s Rogan Josh

The lamb bacon turned out to be very much spicier than when Jan had tried it on the earlier trip. I decided that I would use some of it in a rogan josh sauce. I had also bought some ground lamb, so I thought I would make meatballs, instead of the more traditional chunks of lamb.

Note: I recognize that most people will not have access to lamb bacon. You may leave it out, but it really made the sauce stand out. It also made up for the flavor lost by not braising chunks of lamb in the sauce for hours.

Rogan josh is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine. It consists of lamb braised in an onion gravy, which is colored with a large amount of Kashmiri chili to make it bright red. Western adaptations of the recipe replace some of the chili with paprika and tomatoes to reduce the heat. I decided that I would not try to be traditional in my rogan josh. I took the ingredients list from Wikipedia and followed my nose from there.

Note: Real Kashmiri chili is only slightly hotter than paprika (2,000 vs 500 SHU—Scoville Heat Units). However, much of what is sold in the US as Kashmiri murgh may be Byadgi chili (9,000-15,000 SHU). Test what you have by putting a few grains on your tongue, if it is spicy it is the real deal, if it burns it is Byadgi chili. If you have real Kashmiri chili, you may replace the paprika with more Kaashmiri chili.

Note: To go with my rogan josh, I made a seafood curry soup and saag paneer.

After Dinner Note: Jan, who does not like anything but barbecued lamb, took seconds.

Karl’s Rogan Josh



½ cup yellow onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated finely
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated finely
½ tsp. Kashmiri chili powder
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 egg, lightly scrambled
¼ cup panko (optional)
1 lb. ground lamb

3 medium tomatoes

1 Tbs. ghee
1 large yellow onion diced (about one cup)
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ lb. lamb bacon (optional), chopped finely
5 cloves garlic, grated finely

1 Tbs. Kashmiri chili powder
½ Tbs. Hungarian paprika
½ Tbs. fresh ginger, grated finely
½ tsp. cloves, ground

3 Indian bay leaves (cassias)
2 black cardamom pods, cracked
1 inch cinnamon stick

½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
¼ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped


1. Put all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl.

Tip: If you are using bread crumbs, you may add two tablespoons of hot water. The hot water softens the lamb fat and makes it easier to blend the mix.

Note: If you do not add the breadcrumbs, do not add the water, because it would make your mixture too wet to form into balls. Myr and Chris are off starches, so I am leaving the bread out.

2. Mix the ingredients thoroughly and set the bowl aside to meld.

3. Blanch the tomatoes to make them easier to peel.

4. Cut the tomatoes across the equator and scrape the seeds into a sieve over a small bowl.

5. Press the jelly through the sieve with a spatula and discard the seeds.

Tip: Much of a tomato’s flavor is in the tomato jelly around the seeds.

6. Chop the tomatoes finely and add them to the bowl. Set the bowl aside.

7. Melt the ghee in a Dutch oven, or large skillet, over medium high heat.

8. Sauté the onions with the salt until soft, about five minutes.

9. Add the lamb bacon and continue cooking until the lamb starts to get crispy, about another five minutes.

10. Add the garlic and continue cooking one minutes more, until fragrant.

11. Stir in the chili, paprika, ginger, and cloves.

12. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently until the tomatoes have started to break down, about another 10 minutes.

13. While the pot is simmering, roll the meat mixture into one inch balls.

14. Sear the meatballs to form a dark crust.

Tip: There are two ways to sear your meatballs. Frying them in an pan with a bit of ghee or broiling them on a tray in the oven. I usually prefer the latter method because it requires less attention, but pan frying will give you a better crust.

15. Let the sauce cool slightly and them put it in a standing blender and process until smooth.

16. Return the sauce to the pot and add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick.

17. Cover the pot and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.

18. Add the meatballs and simmer for five more minutes.

19. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the yogurt.

20. Serve hot and garnish with some fresh cilantro.

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Filed under Lamb, Main Dishes

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