Lal Maas

February 4th, 201111:00 am @

Lal Maas

Some like it hot . . . the Rajasthani dish Lal Maas.

I’d wanted to cook lal maas ever since I came across a recipe for the Rajasthani dish that called for three dozen chillies. Clearly, this was something I had to have a stab at.

Unfortunately, the result was not a success – too salty and too spicy was my verdict. Before pronouncing a judgement of “well, duh” on the latter failure, I should point out that my favourite midday snack is grilled cheese and bird’s eye chillies on toast. Yes, I’m a freak, but while I like my food spicy, I don’t enjoy it to the point of self-flagellation – that’s for special occasions. But I digress.

Undaunted, and like a culinary Sisyphus, I tried again and again, modifying the recipe until I got the one below, which is the closest version I’ve been happy with, although I’ll keep rolling the boulder up the hill.

Note: The recipe calls for black cardamom, a spice I was heretofore unfamiliar with, which may say more about my knowledge of spices than anything else. If, like me, you’ve lived a life ignorant of black cardamom, they look like large, hairy versions of regular cardamom and add a rich, smoky flavour to the dish. Your local spice shop may know them as brown cardamom, badhi elaichi, thảo quả and tsao-ko.


  • 250g plain yoghurt
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds toasted (swirl them round on a dry, hot frypan for a minute or so)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • Large dash of vegetable oil or ghee (if your cardiologist agrees)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 5 black cardamom pods
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 large onions
  • 1 kg lamb or goat cut into 2cm cubes (include a bone or two for flavour)
  • 10 dried red chillies (you can remove the seeds to make them less hot, but I can’t be arsed, just use fewer chillies)
  • 750 ml lamb stock
  • Handful of coriander, chopped


  • Mix together the yoghurt, cumin, coriander, chilli powder and salt and put aside.
  • Heat the oil (or ghee) in a deep pan, add the cloves, bay leaves, and all the cardamom pods – green and black – and cook until they change colour.
  • Add the garlic and stir until it starts to change colour – don’t burn it.
  • Add the onions and sauté till they brown.
  • Now throw in your meat and give the whole thing a good stir.
  • Here come the chillies.
  • Cook the whole lot until the meat is browned, then turn off the heat and stir in the yoghurt mixture. Turning off the heat while you do this helps to stop the yoghurt curdling.
  • Put the heat back on and cook on a low heat until you have a thick, creamy sauce.
  • Now add the stock, bring it all to boil, cover and reduce the heat.
  • Drink beer, or martinis, until the meat is tender and falling apart.
  • Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice or flat breads – and beer to ameliorate the heat.
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