Lamb Pepper Fry

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a main meal

Appears in

The chef at the Shalimar Spice Garden in Kerala gave me this recipe for a rich, spicy lamb curry. Curry leaves, coconut and black pepper provide the characteristic Keralan flavours. It improves with reheating so can be made well before you plan to serve it.


  • boneless lamb 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz, cut into 3 cm/ in cubes
  • coconut or vegetable oil 5 tbsp
  • mustard seeds 2 tsp
  • garlic cloves 4 large, thinly sliced
  • ginger root 2.5 cm/1 in chunk, sliced into matchsticks
  • green chillies 1–2, halved lengthways and deseeded
  • curry leaves 15, plus extra to garnish
  • cinnamon stick 7 cm/ in, broken into small pieces
  • cardamom pods 2 tbsp, crushed, husks discarded
  • cloves 8–10
  • onions 2, sliced
  • chopped tomatoes 400 g/14 oz can
  • dried coconut ribbons 50 g/ oz, plus extra to garnish
  • salt to taste
  • Garam Masala 2 tsp
  • black peppercorns 1 tbsp, crushed
  • fennel seeds 2 tsp, crushed
  • plainly boiled white rice to serve

For the Spice Paste

  • garlic cloves 4 large
  • ginger root 2.5 cm/1 in chunk
  • turmeric powder 1 tbsp
  • chilli powder 1 tsp
  • coriander seeds 1 tbsp, crushed
  • black peppercorns 1 tbsp, crushed
  • curry leaves 8–10
  • salt 1 tsp


First make the spice paste. Cut the garlic and ginger into chunks small enough to fit in a garlic press. Squeeze the juice into a small bowl, mixing in the residue left in the press. Stir in the other spices and the salt.

Put the lamb in a bowl, add the spice paste and turn the meat so it is evenly coated with the paste. Cover with cling film and leave for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.

Put the lamb and the paste in a heavy-based saucepan. Add about 850ml/ pints of water, enough to barely cover the meat. Bring slowly to the boil, removing any scum, then cover and simmer gently for about 1 hour or until the lamb is tender.

Tip the contents of the pan into a sieve set over a bowl. Pour the liquid back into the pan and simmer briskly until reduced to about 400ml/14fl oz. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Heat the coconut oil in a large, high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and when they crackle, stir in the garlic, ginger, chillies and curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds then add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Sizzle for a few more seconds, taking care not to let the spices burn.

Next, add the onions, reduce the heat a little and fry for 7–8 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 3–4 minutes. Once thickened, add the cooked lamb, most of the reserved lamb stock, the coconut ribbons and salt to taste. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, adding the rest of the lamb stock, if necessary. The juices should be thick and cling to the meat, but they shouldn’t be dry.

Just before you’re ready to serve, sprinkle with the garam masala, peppercorns and fennel seeds. Stir briefly, then scatter over a few more curry leaves and coconut ribbons. Serve with plainly boiled white rice.