Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Step-By-Step Cooking: Over 150 Dishes from India and the Far East Including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, copyright 2001 by Madhur Jaffrey (Ecco Press, 2001).
Serves 4 to 6
Roghan josh is a traditional North Indian Muslim dish. It has a thick, dark, nutty sauce made with almonds and roasted cumin, coriander, and coconut. Lamb shoulder is used here, but you could use leg, neck, or shank if you prefer. Beef for stew may also be substituted. Serve with plain rice.
Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes and dry well with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add the cloves, red peppers, peppercorns, and whole cardamom pods. Stir for a few seconds until the cardamom pods puff up and darken.
Now brown the meat in the pan, 7 or 8 pieces at a time, turning to color them on all sides. Transfer the meat to a large flameproof casserole with a slotted spoon, leaving the spices in the frying pan. Brown all the meat in this way, then cover the casserole and set aside.
Peel and coarsely chop the garlic and ginger; set aside. Roughly chop the almonds.
Heat a small cast-iron frying pan. Add the cumin, coriander, coconut, and almonds and dry-roast over medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the spices turn a coffee color. Transfer the roasted spices and nuts to a blender. Add the chopped garlic and ginger.
With a slotted spoon, lift out the fried spices from the frying pan and add these to the blender too. Add the turmeric, nutmeg, mace, and 8 tablespoons water. Blend to a smooth, thick paste.
Peel and mince or finely chop the onions. Heat the oil remaining in the frying pan (in which the lamb was fried). Add the onions and fry over a high heat, stirring and scraping up the juices, for about 5 minutes or until they are tinged brown.
Lower the heat to medium and add the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for another 5 minutes, gradually adding the yogurt a tablespoon at a time.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1-1/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Put the meat into this sauce and season with salt. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Transfer to a warm serving dish.
"My mother taught me that food was fuel," says writer Elissa Altman. "That food was dangerous. That food was the enemy." As Altman's mother grows older, Altman is finding it difficult to get her to eat.