Smackdown: Pip Pip Cheerio!


I say, my good man. Lorry pram bumbershoot wanker.

spice market

Sorry, that’s me getting my British on, because tonight’s rogan josh – a warmly spiced lamb curry – comes from the “Britain” chapter of Curry Cuisine (a fine tome, available at Amazon for a scant $14). Excuse me while I go neglect my teeth and take in some absurdist comedy.

As you can see, I have an excellent grasp of what it means to be British.

Back to the rogan josh, the star of tonight’s show: it’s a spicy (but not hot), yogurty (but not painfully creamy) lamb curry from the Kashmir. It’s an aromatic medley of ginger, turmeric, mild red Kashmiri chile (for which paprika makes an excellent stand-in), cumin, fennel and coriander, among other things.


Those other things being cardamom, cinnamon, bay, cloves and black peppercorns. I swirled the whole spices around in some hot oil while I got the ground spices together and hacked a lamb shoulder to pieces with a dull knife. The shoulder Fresh Direct brought me was a bit more than I needed, so two very lucky dogs got lamb scraps in their dinner tonight, causing them to follow me around for the rest of the evening with pleading eyes. Please, they are saying, we need more lamb or WE WILL DIE.


A grated onion and several cloves of garlic joined the whole spices; I stirred them around until the onion started to turn golden and then fetched the lamb.


These lamb chunks somehow fail to fully bear witness to the violence I inflicted with that dull knife.

So, I’ve been reading Dianne Jacobs’ Will Write for Food, which is, so far, as helpful as promised. In one chapter, she harps on the fact that your first draft is usually a piece of shit, and everything – from a feature piece in Bon Appetit to a lowly blog post – needs to be wheedled and massaged to be readable. Which is totally true, but then I got to thinking: because of how this blog is structured, I’m always writing in the moment. I just cooked this lamb, I’m writing immediately after and I’ll publish this tonight.

So, of necessity, you’re ALWAYS getting my first draft, which essentially means that you’re always getting the crappiest possible writing I can generate.

I just thought you’d like to know that, dear readers.


The lamb went into the pan to get tossed hither and yon with the onion and spice mix, spent a few minutes getting nice and brown and was then coated with the ground spices.

(See, look at me using the passive voice! If I were editing, I’d figure out how to re-write that sentence. But I’m not, so I won’t.)

Here’s where things started smelling really, really good. As the ground spices hit the heat, they sent up a heady plume that perfumed my kitchen, the rest of the house, the hallway outside our apartment and half of our block. You’re welcome, neighbors!

rogan josh

As instructed, I gradually added yogurt to the lamb mixture before adding enough water to barely cover the lamb. I left it to simmer along with a pot of jasmine rice while I hied to the sofa to read some more of Jacobs’ book and lament my overuse of adjectives.

I stirred occasionally even though I should have just left the pot alone; partly it satisfied my love of stirring bubbling liquids, and partly I needed to open the pot periodically to release more of the rogan josh’s aroma into the air. Seriously, this curry on the stove is better than any sneeze-inducing shit you’ll find at Yankee Candle. If you could bottle the smell of simmering rogan josh, I’d be huffing it on the sly all the live-long day.

rogan josh

The curry and rice were miraculously done at the same time, so dinner was actually hot all the way through. Well, mostly hot, considering it had to sit through a photo shoot before it could be consumed. So, warm all the way through: a triumph!

Thank god this tasted as good as it smelled, or this would have been a serious let-down. All the spices coalesce into a warm, comforting blend from which you are hard pressed to pick out individual flavors. The gamy flavor of the lamb still comes through, and the yogurt adds a noticeable tang that keeps things from feeling too heavy.

The long ingredient list aside, this didn’t take all that long to assemble, nor was it particularly challenging to cook, so it’s a viable option for a weeknight. (For example, I’m going to finish this post up in time to watch So You Think You Can Dance, thus squandering valuable time when I could be editing.) And I have to believe that it will taste even better tomorrow, making it a great candidate for weekend big-pot cooking to last for lunches and dinners through the week.

Ace! Brilliant!

9 thoughts on “Smackdown: Pip Pip Cheerio!

  1. LOL, I’m cracking up @ bumbershoot.

    That curry + rice looks divine. Although, I rarely get a piping hot meal due to photos. I should really start photographing a staged dish after I eat. Of course, that would involve making more than one or 2 servings at a time and dealing with leftovers, lol.


  2. Nice! I love how Indian food has become such a staple of British cuisine – well, both love and hate, really. Love because it means that we Brits get to enjoy some fantastic Indian food, hate because we also very often bastardise good Indian food and end up with rubbishness. Lame.

    Jolly good show on the curry though, matey-j. I’m impressed. Bet it tasted like a Bollywood party in your mouth.

    Jax x

  3. Shameful confession: I’ve TRIED to like lamb. Roasted, braised, stewed, chops, you name it. Other than the ground stuff in moussaka and meatballs and shashlik….I just DON’T. Do I have to turn in my aspiring foodie credentials?

  4. I officially couldn’t take a full breath while reading this, because each time I thought I’d be able to – I’d think WANKER! and start laughing. Brits totally have better swear words than we do. And better comedy, because HELLO Eddie Izzard!

    (And in case you were wondering, if you google “cross dressing British comedian” because you can’t remember his name, Eddie Izzard is in fact the first search result. WIN.)

    (I apologize for the plethora of caps-locked words. It just happens sometimes.)

  5. Much of the charm of this blog (aside from your varied recipe choices and the beautiful results of your macro lens caressing your food) stems, I think, from it’s un-edited-ness. You write like a frickin’ genius on the fly; don’t mess with it!

  6. To people who don’t like lamb, I’ve made similar things w/ pork or chicken substituted and it works out great. Lamb can be really sweaty-smelling, I like it but I totally get why people wouldn’t. And I agree w/ lizz on your writing- editing too much would just make you too clever and pat, like Juno.

  7. asshole, the name really does say it all!

    jen, or just learn to love lukewarm. that’s what i did. this was actually still hot when we sat down to eat, and i was all, like, “what the fuck?”

    jackie, i’d much rather have this be a staple of american cuisine than some of the shit we have. then again, you deserve it, having to deal with british food.

    kay, it tastes like a barnyard. i get it. i’m a big fan, but i understand why others aren’t.

    caitlin, right? better words AND they get to sound more civilized when they curse b/c of those damn sexy accents. not fair.

    honey, yeah, it really was pretty simple: dump ingredients in pot, stir, simmer, eat.

    lizz, thanks! don’t worry, i wasn’t planning on messing with anything. i’m way to lazy to edit.

    karen, yeah, i’d think you could sub the meat out without much of a problem. i’ll def be trying it with chicken.

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