Lamb shank red curry

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

Sumptuous and celebratory, this is a real feast of a curry. The shanks take a long time in the oven, but the oven does all the work. What emerges is meat falling from the bone and a deep, intense gravy. A final flourish of evaporated milk and palm sugar rounds off the flavours, making the curry rich and interesting.


  • 4 small lamb shanks
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • small handful curry leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 cm ( inches) ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 can dlenuts or 6 blanched almonds
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (concentrated puree)
  • 400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  • 125 ml (½ cup) evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark palm sugar (gula jawa)


Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

Season the lamb shanks with salt. In a large casserole pan, heat the oil and brown the lamb on all sides. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind.

Add the curry leaves to the hot oil and sizzle briefly until fragrant. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to scatter over the finished curry. Keep the oil in the pan.

In a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic, ginger and candlenuts to a paste.

Return the casserole pan to a medium heat, topping up the oil if needed. Add the onion, garlic paste, cloves and cinnamon. When the onion is soft and translucent, add the remaining spices and the tomato paste and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tinned tomatoes followed by 750 ml (3 cups) water, swirling it around the tin first to catch the red residue. Season with salt. Return the lamb to the pan and bring the liquid to the boil. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 2-3 hours until the meat is very tender and coming away from the bone. Remove the lamb from the pan and skim off the fat from the surface. Stir the evaporated milk and palm sugar into the pan. Bring to a bubble and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. Taste for seasoning.

Serve the lamb shanks with the sauce spooned over and a crown of fried curry leaves.