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, except for 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 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 usually be much milder than this dish. Further, palak dishes often have much more gravy, 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 key. As mentioned above, you must get the balance between the meat and the vegetables right. You don’t want cubes of lamb swimming in green gravy. Keeping the gravy green is also important, otherwise you will end up with an unattractive khaki-coloured gravy.
The quantities and the techniques described will help you avoid those issues.
- wide pan with lid
- 800 g lamb leg - trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces
for the masala
for the saag
- 300 g silverbeet leaves - washed and trimmed from the stalks
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 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, cassia, and cardamom pods. Fry, stirring continually, for 30 seconds, until the spices swell.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and fry for ten minutes, or until the onions are soft and 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.
- Increase the heat to medium. 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 and half hours, or until tender. Stir occasionally. You will need to add water as the lamb cooks, but it is important not to make the gravy too watery.
- Once the lamb is tender, remove the lid and increase the heat. Stir frequently and reduce the sauce until is it thick and clinging to the meat. This may take up to thirty minutes.
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 them from the iced water and gently squeeze the water from them. Coarsely chop the leaves and set them aside.
- Once the lamb is cooked add the garam masala, the remaining one teaspoon of salt, and the spinach. Mix gently. 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 readily 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.
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