What’s cooking today: Mutton yoghurt curry with fried cumin onions

What’s cooking today: Mutton yoghurt curry with fried cumin onions
Tony Jackman’s mutton yoghurt curry with fried cumin onions and saffron basmati rice. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Yoghurt lends a curry a divine creamy quality and can be used in it twice, first for marination, and later for finishing it off before serving with a scattering of cumin-fried onion.

Don’t mess about with also-ran yoghurt for this recipe. Go right for the full cream version, thick and luscious and a beauty to work with. Plan to start a day ahead or at least in the morning for that night.

I don’t usually marinate meat for a curry; in fact I don’t remember ever having done so. But times are always up for a-changin’ and it occurred to me to throw a spicy marinade together for the mutton pieces I’d earmarked for a curry. Pieces? Anything in chunks, whether neck, shank, leg, or a mixture of the above. Ribs are great in a curry too, whether mutton or lamb.

Start by mixing your spices into yoghurt, then toss the meat chunks in it and refrigerate it overnight or all day. You can put it together between the morning coffee and the Wordle.

(Serves 4)


For the marinade:

1 cup full cream yoghurt

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp masala

1 tsp turmeric

For the curry:

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 pieces of cassia bark

8 whole green cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

3 Tbsp cooking oil

1 large onion, chopped

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1.2 kg mutton pieces

1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes

1 or 2 cans of water 

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced

Salt to taste

For the cumin-fried onion:

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small onion, sliced

Salt and white pepper

To serve:

1 cup full cream yoghurt

Chopped coriander

Saffron rice (rice cooked your usual way but with a pinch of saffron strands and a little salt added)


Spoon the yoghurt into a tub or bowl and stir in the spices. Toss the mutton chunks in it and refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight.

Put all the seeds, cassia, cardamom and bay leaves in the bottom of a heavy pot and put a moderate heat on. When you hear the seeds starting to pop, add oil followed by the onion (from the main ingredient list, not the cumin onion list), garlic and fresh ginger. Simmer, stirring now and then, until the onions are softened.

Add the meat and toss well to coat. Add the can of chopped tomatoes, then fill the can up with water once or more and add that. Stir and add the chopped carrots. Season with salt to taste.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and let it cook for about three hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the lid part of the way through cooking to allow for some evaporation and thickening.

Spoon excess fat off the surface. Taste and adjust salting if needed.

To serve, fry cumin seeds in coconut oil briefly. Add onion and sauté until softened and turning golden. Toss the extra yoghurt through the curry and serve topped with fried cumin onions and chopped coriander. I served it with saffron rice. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed in bowls by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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