‘Bhuna‘ is a particular Asian cooking style where a sauce is reduced and reduced until it is so thick that it just clings to the meat, making the meat appear ‘browned’.
Dishes cooked in the bhuna style are rich and pungent, the flavour of the spice mix concentrated down by the fierce reduction of the sauce. Bhunas tend to be hot for the same reason.
This recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. Her recipes are outstanding.
To make a lamb bhuna, start by gently browning a heady mix of spices.
Add two teaspoons of cumin seeds, four teaspoons of coriander seeds, two teaspoons of mustard seeds, two or three dried chillis, and finally two teaspoons each of fennel and fenugreek seeds to a large, dry, medium hot frying pan. Keep the spices moving for a minute or two until they brown slightly. Empty the pan into a bowl and let the spices cool slightly before grinding them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder of with a pestle and mortar.
Next, finely chop three large shallots, a four centimetre chunk of ginger and five or six garlic cloves in oil in a large pan until they turn golden brown. This will take maybe four or five minutes.
Add a couple of medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped to the pan, along with about fifteen curry leaves. Feel free to use canned tomatoes instead of fresh. Cook until the sauce thickens.
Add the roasted spice mix to the pan and stir well. The dry spice powder will cause the sauce to seize and thicken. Cook for a minute or two, taking care not to let the sauce catch on the bottom of the pan. If it does, add a splash of water and quickly stir.
Now add a kilo of boneless lamb or mutton shoulder, cut into large chunks, and a teaspoon and a half of salt. Stir and cook for five minutes, making sure that the meat is fully covered in the thick sauce.
Let the curry down with 250ml of water, bring to a gentle simmer, put a lid on the pan and cook on a very gentle heat for about an hour and a half.
After this time, check that the meat is tender. If it isn’t leave it for a while longer. When the meat is ready, remove the lid from the pan and turn up the heat to reduce the sauce until it almost disappears. The aim is to create a dry dish, where the highly concentrated remains of the sauce cling tightly to the tender meat.
Finish with a sprinkle of garam masala and a handful of chopped fresh coriander.
Serve with naan bread, rice and cold beer. This is no place for wine. Beer only, please, something light and very, very cold.
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