‘Bhuna Gosht’, or Lamb Bhuna as it is known in the UK, is a real Indian classic. The name ‘Bhuna’ simply means ‘to be fried’ in Urdu, which gives a strong clue about its preparation: lamb or mutton is marinated then pan-fried with tomato, spices and yoghurt until the sauce is thick and richly flavoured. The dish is ready when the sauce is so thick it clings to the tender meat pieces.
Bhuna Gosht can be found on most Indian restaurant menus but only high quality restaurants take the time to make it in the traditional manner. It originates in the Punjab, a region in North East India renowned for its excellent cuisine. It is also a favourite of the Masala Zone founder, Camellia Panjabi, who has treasured memories of eating home-cooked Bhuna Gosht as a child. In fact an excellent recipe for Bhuna Gosht can be found in Camellia’s cookery book, ’50 Great Curries of India’.
Even VIP guests are treated to Bhuna Gosht. In January 2015 US President Barack Obama visited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Taking pride of place on the lunch menu was – you guessed it – Bhuna Gosht. This shows just what an impressive and pleasing dish it is.
This is a dish which does not like to be rushed and, like any recipe, it benefits from using freshly roasted whole spices rather than ground. As the chestnut-brown sauce is slowly reduced, the flavour is concentrated and infuses the meat.
Lamb or mutton are very popular meats in India. Many people do not eat pork or beef for religious or cultural reasons, so along with fish and chicken, meat from sheep is a mainstay of the diet for non-vegetarians. This is why you find a lot of delectable lamb recipes in Indian cuisine.
To prepare Bhuna Gosht, start with the spice mix. Roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds and cinnamon bark in oil with whole black peppercorns and cloves. This will release delightful aromas into your kitchen as the spices sizzle and give up their perfume. This mixture is then ground up with fresh chilli, turmeric and fragrant cardamom pods, resulting in a potent powder.
To tenderise the lamb, it is cut into cubes and then marinated in this spice mix together with onion, garlic, ginger and yoghurt for at least three hours. Yoghurt is an excellent tenderiser, helping to soften meat and transport flavour deep inside its structure.
When the lamb is ready to cook, a pan is prepared with onion, chilli, garlic and ginger. This is fried in ghee on a low heat until soft. Chopped tomatoes are added and gently heated until they reduce to a pulp. Then the lamb is added, together with its delicious marinade.
From this point on, it’s all a matter of slowly reducing the sauce. Simmer and simmer, occasionally adding water if you wish, until the lamb is almost falling apart and the sauce clings to it with a rich sheen. Serve with rice, naan bread or chapati to mop up the sauce and an ice-cold beer or juicy mango lassi. Lovely.