What’s cooking today: Lamb neck & brinjal curry

What’s cooking today: Lamb neck & brinjal curry
Tony Jackman’s lamb neck and brinjal curry, served on Mervyn Gers ceramics. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

This potjie recipe is designed for a long, lazy day. There are two phases to the cook: first the brinjal curry, then the lamb curry. Finally, the two are incorporated and served with turmeric rice and sambals.

This curry cooked in a potjie is packed with flavour and heat. Lamb neck has delicious meat but it is imperative that you give it enough time to tenderise. At least three hours of cooking, even as long as four, may be needed for the meat to slide off the bones at your will.

Planning to have it ready by 7.30pm, I lit the fire at 1.30pm, six hours earlier. Best to plan the cook by the hour: the first for preparing the ingredients and getting coals ready; the second for cooking the brinjals, then cooking the lamb neck curry over low coals for at least three hours (I’d recommend about three and a half), which allows you a half hour to add the brinjal curry back to the potjie and let them cook through together while you chop some coriander to garnish it with and check up on your sambals, which of course you can prepare while the meat curry is cooking.

I cooked the neck whole, because I like its dramatic effect when done and it’s easy to cut away lovely chunks of it once tender. You can of course use slices of neck if you prefer.

Note that there are two ingredients lists, for the lamb curry and the brinjal curry; be careful not to mix them up.


For the brinjal curry:

2 large brinjals, in chunks but not peeled

1 red onion, sliced thinly

1 red pepper, seeds removed, sliced julienne

3 garlic cloves, sliced

2 red chillies, chopped, seeds and all

1 x 3cm piece of fresh ginger, minced or grated

50 g tomato paste (i.e. a small sachet)

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp water

1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp hot masala

1 Tbsp cumin seeds

3 Tbsp sauté oil (sunflower, canola, or a product marked sauté oil)

Salt to taste, generously

For the lamb neck curry:

1 x 1.5 kg lamb neck, whole

1 large red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 x 3 cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

2 tsp cumin seeds

10 cardamom pods

1 Tbsp black mustard seeds

4 Tbsp crumbled dried curry leaves

3 Tbsp hot masala

1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes

1 x 400 g can coconut cream

Salt to taste (it needs to be well salted)

Black pepper to taste (don’t be shy, it can take it)

3 Tbsp chopped coriander stems and leaves

Extra coriander for garnish


The brinjal curry once cooked and removed to a bowl to be returned to the potjie later. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

For the brinjal curry:

Cube the brinjals. Slice the onion. Julienne the red pepper. Chop the chillies. Chop the garlic. Peel and chop the ginger.

Mix the tomato paste, red wine vinegar, water, garlic, chilli, ginger and masala and salt to taste in a bowl and stir to combine.

Pour the sauté oil into a clean potjie with coals underneath and sauté the sliced onion until soft, stirring. Add the brinjals and stir with a wooden spoon for the onions to be distributed and start to flavour the brinjals.

Add the red pepper, your liquid mixture, and the chopped tomatoes and combine well so that everything is coated evenly. Sprinkle the cumin seeds over and salt. Stir.

Put more coals under the pot, put the lid on and place a few coals on top. Cook for 45 minutes, then ladle the contents of the pot into a dish to reserve to be returned to the potjie later.

For the lamb neck curry:

Add more oil to the pot and add the cumin seeds, cardamom, black mustard seeds and curry leaves. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the chopped red onion, garlic and ginger, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, then stir in 2 Tbsp masala and cook for another minute. 

Take the whole lamb bone in your hand and shove it into the aromatic mixture in the potjie, and turn it on all sides to coat it really well. It’s the best way to do it and the discomfort of the heat will be over very quickly; just be sure your hand or wrist doesn’t touch the sides of the pot. Otherwise, two wooden spoons will work.

Pour the chopped tomatoes into a jug and add boiling water to make up a litre. Add 1 Tbsp masala, black pepper and salt to taste. 

Pour this into the pot, cover with the lid, add coals below and a few on the lid, and let it cook for about three hours. 

After two hours, stir in the coconut cream with the chopped coriander stems and leaves, cover and continue cooking. 

Serve with turmeric basmati rice (add 1 tsp of turmeric powder to the water when cooking it), cucumber chopped into thick Greek yoghurt with coriander leaves and a little salt; finely chopped tomato and onion with a dash of red wine vinegar, and Mrs H S Ball’s jalapeño chutney. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.


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