Saag gosht: a tender lamb and spinach curry

Lamb & spinach curry

This is one of those curries where if you throw it a hard stare, the lamb just kind of sighs and falls to pieces. There’s nothing tender about about the taste however, a meaty, earthy spicy hit that floods your mouth when you take a bite.

It’s this melting but flavourful effect that makes lamb shoulder my favourite meat to slowly cook in a curry. The lacing of fat and connective tissues that run through the meat give it a glorious texture, and hold a decently strong flavour that stands up well to spicing.

Warming aromatics and chilli heat go particularly well which is why there are lashings of ground coriander, garlic, ginger and a hot green chilli. They lift the lamb and the smooth earthy spinach and prevent it form becoming too cloyingly smooth. While the tumeric adds a certain earthy astringency. An almost undetectable foundation that’s essential to the curry taste.

As I understand it, and I am more than happy to be corrected here, this is a typically North Indian dish, with the use of yoghurt, lamb and the spicing coming in with the Mughals from Central Asia. And it does have some similarities with what little Persian food I’ve eaten.

Lamb & spinach curry cooking
Cooking the curry

Whatever its origins, this is one of the best ways to cook lamb. The main thing is to balance all the spices out with the aromatics and the lamb. You need enough to lift the flavour of the finished dish, particularly as the combination of spinach and lamb can be quite earthy, but not to overwhelm relegate the meat and vegetable to mere texture.

If I were cooking it again I would add another green chilli and maybe some fresh coriander just to add a little freshness and zing to the finished dish. But that’s because it’s summery outside. If it were the depths of winter this would be perfect – soothing, warming and filling.

Lamb and spinach curry
Serves four with rice, a vegetable side of some sort, poppadoms and raita

The main thing here is not to stint on the cooking time. You must give the lamb time to relax and absorb the yogurt and spices. It’ll, as ever, be even better if you make it the day before and leave to soak everything up overnight before reheating the next day.

I got this recipe by reading and combining elements of similar curries from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Bible and 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, and then adding the odd touch of my own. Both are excellent books and come highly recommended.

Garlic to crush

Half shoulder of lamb cut into one inch (2cm) pieces
4 cloves of garlic
1 thumb of ginger peeled and grated
1 small very hot green chilli deseeded and finely sliced
2 tablespoons of ground coriander
2 medium onions cut into fine half rounds
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
Half tsp of turmeric
Large pinch of salt
4 tblsp full fat Greek yoghurt
400 g of baby spinach sliced into rough ribbons

Mash the garlic, ginger, green chilli and ground coriander into a paste using a pestle and mortar and slather all over the lamb. Set aside for about 30 minutes to marinade. An hour would be better.

Put 5 tablespoons or so of oil into a pan over a high heat. When it’s starting to shimmer add the onions and, stirring occaisionally, cook until they are golden and crispy. Don;t worry if some go a dark brown. Spoon out onto paper towels to drain, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

Add the lamb to the oil, turn the heat down to medium and stir in the Cayenne, turmeric and salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. The lamb should shed some water.

Plop in the yoghurt one tablespoon at a time, stirring each one in before you add the next. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts. Make sure everything is well combined, cover and turn the heat down as low as possible. Leave to cook for 50 minutes, stirring occaisionally.

Make sure the lamb is super tender (I leave it to rest for another 15 minutes or so) and serve over rice. Sit back and enjoy.

29 Responses to “Saag gosht: a tender lamb and spinach curry”

  1. NickyB

    One of my favourite ever dishes. This may be a hanging offence, but I use canned spinach – it has more astringency, a softer, more slippery texture that bonds beautifully with the meat – and it’s what my Punjabi friend insists is the “correct” way to do it … I’m sure he’s not pulling my leg, really sure, honest :)

  2. TheLittleWelsh

    This looks FANTASTIC! I’m definitely giving this a go on the weekend! Good clear instructions and the top pic is gorgeous :) I got hungry reading this – and it’s only 9am…

  3. Su-Lin

    That looks insanely good. I think I need a curry night at home this weekend!

  4. Food Urchin

    You stared the lamb into submission? Blimey Aaron, remind me never to get into your bad books. Lovely looking curry………sir.

  5. The Grubworm

    @NickyB – It’s not an offence, I use whatever works. I don’t reckon many places use baby leaf spinach, i just like the slightly lighter taste (and that you don’t have to wash the leaves if you get it in a bag…)

    @TheLittleWelsh – why thank you ;) It’s good to know the recipe and photo had that effect

    @Su-Lin – thank you very much! Enjoy the curry.

    @Food Urchin – I am that kind of fearsome guy. You’d better watchout for my sideways glances. And, thank you Urchin.

  6. Gourtmet Butcher

    Grubworm with your tasty lamb curry you are spoiling us!! Good job, the lamb looks so tender and delicious!!

  7. JenCooks

    You had me at “lamb”. Seriously one of the best meats especially in a curry. Wish I was there to try a bit.

  8. The Grubworm

    @Gourmet Butcher – Why thanks you! It was pretty tasty ;)

    @JenCooks – Isn’t it just the best meat to curry, or slow cook in general I reckon. I wish you were here to try some too. Even though I’ve actually eaten it all ;)

  9. Kavey

    So lovely to catch up tonight!

    This looks proper good. Lamb saag is one of my very favourite dishes.

    My mum also loves to use methi leaves (fenugreek leaves) instead of spinach but I don’t like that version myself…

  10. Mzungu

    Looks really good. Lamb I reckon is the best meat to slow cook.
    I tried goat last week, and no matter how long I cooked it, it just stayed tough. Not sure if goat is supposed to be like that, or maybe just the batch I brought. Who knows.

  11. The Grubworm

    @Kavey – it was good wasn;t it? Interesting idea using methi leaves, i’ll have to give it a go. I have also used turnip greens and radish leaves before, both tasted great.

    @Mzungu – thanks! I agree about the lamb, so tasty. As for the goat, it might just have been the meat, i have had the same happen with venison and mutton before. Doesn’t matter how long you cook it, it stays as tough as leather. Weird. Worth trying a second time with another batch maybe?

  12. catty

    Yum, that sounds good. Any slow cooked lamb is delicious.. I just made a Cypriot dish the other night – also slow cooked lamb and it is just so ridiculously tender but meaty at the same time. Are you on curry roll? :)

  13. Cinabar

    Last time I made a Saag I was shocked by how green it was, but it was fab ;-) Will try this one too.

  14. The Grubworm

    @catty – We will get you on to Indian food, you’ll see! I am indeed on a curry roll. There’s another coming soon ;)

    @Cinabar – It is really green isn’t it? I kind of like that, makes it feel more healthy…

  15. Lizzie

    I made Rick Stein’s version of this and the amount of spicing he used was quite terrifying. I am now craving lamb and spinach curry at 11pm, dammit.

  16. The Grubworm

    @Lizzie – i’d be interested in looking that up, I’ll check out your blog. Sorry to set the cravings off… Still, it’s never too late for curry ;)

  17. Cycling Chef

    Great post! My mouth is watering! We are cooking our way through “50 Great Curries of India.” As of Feb. 2012 we have cooked 27 of the 50. Only a few of our finished dishes have looked like the beautiful photos in the book, but most have turned out delicious! Check out our tasting notes of each curry we have cooked so far on the “50 Curries Project” page of my blog: ‘Cycling Chef in the VeloKitchen.’ Look forward to your comments!

  18. Karen Qureshi

    Add some dill to the lamb and spinach makes it really good

  19. The Grubworm

    @Cycling Chef – it’s a great book isn;t it? Sounds like you are doing better than me in working through it though! I hear you about the look of food, but that’s the case in almost every recipe book where the food is styled (and the photos optimised).

    @Karen – i hadn’t thought of that, will give it a go next time! Thanks.

  20. Roberto

    I made this for a party for 12 last week , everone wants the recipie yum yum

  21. Sandrine

    Grubworm, this recipe looks fantastic and I am testing it right now. But I have a question: what do we do with the onions after they have been fried and drained? Should I add them back at the end?
    Thanks!

  22. The Grubworm

    @george and @roberto – thanks guys!

  23. The Grubworm

    @Sandrine – thanks :) . You add the onion back at the end as a sort of garnish. But you could also leave it in the curry and cook until soft (instead of crispy) and it would add some more sweetness to the whole thing.

  24. Yvonne

    I am just making this curry.lamb is marinating lovely,because I’m busy can this be cooked in a slow cooker ?? Thankyou

  25. The Grubworm

    Hi Yvonne – I don’t see why not, if you do that I would be really interested in hearing how it went.

  26. Doadie

    Used a scotch bonnet chilli, mega spicy, bar that
    alteration,amazing curry!!!

  27. An Authentic Life

    My Amendments (cause I’m cheeky like that) Lamb forequarter
    chops, bone in cut into more managable pieces. home grown coriander
    seed pestled into powder 4 sante fe chilis (thats what was ready in
    the garden) 1 tsp home grown mustard seed 1 inch fresh turmeric
    grated pretty much all else the same, but I added back the softened
    onions for the simmer. amazing flavour! thank you for the
    inspiration!

  28. The Grubworm

    That sounds fantastic, I think your amendments will make it into more of a flavourful feast, especially the bone-in lamb. I’ll have to try this out :)

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