Indian Curried Lamb Soup

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes



Appears in

Splendid Soups

Splendid Soups

By James Peterson

Published 2000

  • About

This fragrant soup is a revelation to anyone who has never tasted a curry made with an assortment of ground spices rather than a commercial curry powder. For the best results you can grind your own spices using a coffee or spice grinder, but I use ground spices that I keep in the freezer.

This soup is inspired by Indian kormas, which are finished with cream and yogurt, but you can substitute extra yogurt for the cream.


  • 4 1-pound lamb shanks, cut in half crosswise by the butcher, trimmed of fat, or 1-¼ pounds lamb shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 quarts broth or water
  • 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
  • 2 medium-size onions, finely chopped
  • a ¼-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 medium-size tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1-½ cups canned, seeded and drained
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • juice of 2 limes
  • salt and cayenne pepper


In a 4-quart pot over high heat, brown the lamb in the vegetable oil. Drain off the burned fat.

Turn down the heat, add the broth, and bring to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the lamb for about 1-½ hours, using a ladle to skim off any fat or froth that floats to the top. If the shanks aren’t completely covered with liquid, turn them over halfway into the cooking. You may need to add liquid from time to time to make up for evaporation.

Add the unpeeled garlic cloves and simmer for ½ to 1 hour more, until the meat can easily be pulled away from the bones.

When the lamb is done, heat the butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and stir gently for about 15 minutes, until they brown slightly, but don’t allow them to burn. Add the ginger and spices and stir for 5 minutes more.

Strain the lamb broth into the spice mixture. Push the garlic cloves against the strainer so their pulp goes through into the soup. Remove the lamb shanks, let them cool slightly, and pull the meat away from the bone. Discard any pieces of fat or bone and cut the meat into small cubes.

Add the tomatoes to the spice mixture and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cubes of lamb and whisk in the cream, yogurt, and cilantro. Bring the soup back to a simmer, add the lime juice, and season with salt and cayenne pepper if you want it hotter.

Suggestions and Variations

Although this soup has a thin texture and a delicate flavor, it is quite rich. Usually I serve it with a bowl of basmati rice as the main course, but if you want to show it off as the first course in a more elaborate dinner, follow it with something light—perhaps a grilled fish.

If you don’t want to wait 2 hours for the lamb to cook, use a chicken, quartered, browned, and cooked the same way as the lamb. Add the garlic at the same time as the chicken and cook for only 30 minutes.