Spiced lamb cooked with leafy green vegetables, saag gosht, is a restaurant favourite. It could also become one of your home-cooked favourites. This family recipe for lamb saag is typical of Hyderabadi cuisine.
It can be cooked with almost any leafy vegetable, with the exception of lettuce. This recipe uses silverbeet, but I have had it cooked with fenugreek leaves – delightful – and of course, spinach. Unfortunately, fresh fenugreek leaves are not readily available in Sydney, so silverbeet is my first choice.
The term saag generally refers to a dish made with such leaves and palak refers specifically to spinach. Again, generally speaking, a palak dish would likely be Punjabi and would likely be much milder than this dish. Further, palak dishes often have much more sauce, whilst this recipe describes a lamb dish with some saag clinging to the meat. One more difference is that palak dishes usually have pureed spinach, whilst saag dishes have more texture.
Preparation and presentation of this dish is important. As mentioned above, getting the balance between the meat and the vegetables is important. You don’t want cubes of lamb swimming in a green sauce. Keeping the sauce green is important, otherwise you will end up with an unattractive khaki-coloured sauce.
The quantities and the techniques described will help you avoid those issues.
- 800 g lamb leg – trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces
for the masala
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 12 black peppercorns
- 10 cloves
- 4 Indian bay leaves
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 8 green cardamom pods – broken open
- 1 brown onion – finely chopped
- 1½ tsp salt
- 50 g ginger – finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic – finely chopped
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 150 ml yoghurt
for the saag
- 50 ml yoghurt – warmed to a runny consistency
- Heat a small pan over medium heat. Once hot, put the coriander and cumin seeds into the heated pan. Toast the spices for a few minutes until they become aromatic. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, grind spices to a fine powder.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Fry, stirring continually, for 30 seconds, until the spices swell.
- Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and fry for ten minutes, or until the onions soften and become translucent. Add the ginger and garlic, and fry for a further three minutes, or until the onion becomes golden brown and the raw garlic smell has gone.
- Add the lamb, ground cumin and coriander and the Kashmiri chilli powder. Mix well and fry for three minutes, stirring frequently, until lamb colours.
- Reduce the heat to low, and add the yoghurt one tablespoon at a time, mixing well before adding the next tablespoon.
- Bring the pan to a gentle simmer, cover and cook the lamb for two hours, or until tender. Stir occasionally. You may need to add a little water as the lamb cooks, but it is important to keep the sauce dry and clinging.
for the saag
- Whilst the lamb is cooking, bring two litres of water to a boil in a large pan, and prepare another bowl with two litres of iced water.
- Once the water is boiling, add the turmeric to the water, then add the leaves. Stir, and once the water has come back to a boil use a slotted spoon to transfer the leaves to the iced water. Stir well to distribute the leaves and allow to cool.
- Once the leaves have cooled, remove from the iced water and gently squeeze the water from them. Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside.
- Once the lamb is cooked add the garam masala, the remaining one teaspoon of salt and the spinach and mix well. Bring the pan back to a simmer, cover and cook for ten minutes.
- Increase the heat to high, uncover the pan and cook for a further five minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.
- Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with the warmed yoghurt and serve.
- One large bunch of silverbeet should provide enough leaves. You need to trim the green part of the leaves from the stalks.
- Silverbeet is sometimes called swiss chard
- You can use any leafy green vegetable for the saag. Spinach works well, and I am told kale works well. Mustard leaves are commonly used, but they are not generally available where I live. Lettuce does not work. Fresh green fenugreek leaves would be ideal if you can get them.
- The technique described to prepare the saag ensures that the leaves retain a vibrant green colour.