Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cooking Indian with Rogan Josh

My Rogan Josh
Supposedly, Rogan Josh originated in Persia. I am not a history scholar, and have no knowledge of this beyond commentary I have seen in recipes. I guess, technically, this dish is Persian. However, I have seen it featured in every Indian restaurant I have frequented, and there have been a few. At this point in time, it appears to be a Kashmiri dish, usually made with lamb. Rogan appears to have some reference to the color red, or to heat, as in "red-hot". The dish is often quite red in color, owing to both a type of dried pepper (resham patti) that is used in its preparation, and also a red coloring (ratan jot) made from the root of alkanna tinctoria, a borage family plant.The chiles are not available outside of India, and they cannot keep up with the demand there. The root is used for color and dye, but is not necessarily safe to eat. So.

All conjecture aside, I have eaten Rogan Josh in Indian restaurants, and had at some point made a recipe from one of my Indian cookbooks. The color of the dish in a restaurant is quite red in color. I made a version of my own yesterday for our Valentine's dinner, because my husband and I both absolutely love Indian food. Mine was certainly not red, despite the amount of paprika used. Regardless, my meal came out fabulously delicious.

Most recipes I have seen for Rogan Josh to date, have had tomatoes in the recipe. One person, sounding Indian, insisted that tomatoes are never to be a part of Rogan Josh; they were added to try and make the sauce more red, but this is supposed to be accomplished through the chili powder mentioned. As I was looking around the internet to see what differences or similarities existed between recipes, there were a few things that seemed consistent.
  • Lamb is most often the meat used, though other meats can be substituted.
  • Strong spices are used, e.g. cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom seem ubiquitous.
  • Large amounts of a variety of dried red chile give the red color. This chile is not necessarily found here easily but paprika and dried chiles in powder form can substitute.
  • They all add yogurt at the end of cooking.
  • Garam Masala is often added at the end for a last flavor burst
As I perused recipes, I took note of all the differing spices used. As I listed just above, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom seem to always be used, along with coriander and cumin. After that, there are variations: saffron and or turmeric, mace, bay leaves and even caraway. Some use fennel seed and one recipe called for poppy seed. Reading the amounts sometimes called for of paprika, and the sheer amounts of the rest of the spices, I thought that instead of measuring out all these spices singly, I would do it in larger scale, making my own "Rogan Josh Seasoning." I selected the amounts I would use for one pound of meat and multiplied those amounts, to make a larger amount to have on hand next time.

Rogan Josh Seasoning

makes about 1 1/4 cup
Rogan Josh Seasoning

6 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 to 3 teaspoons ground chiles without seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons green cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
2-inches true cinnamon
2 teaspoons white poppy seed, optional
1 teaspoon "onion seed" / nigella / kalonji, optional

In a bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients (already ground). In a dry skillet over medium high heat, toast the remaining ingredients until very fragrant. Turn them out onto a plate to cool, then grind these spices in a spice grinder until fine. Add them to the first ingredients and mix well. Store in a glass jar with tight fitting lid in a cool, dark place.

In the preparation for my Valentine Dinner, I had thawed a 4.5 pound leg of lamb. I cut it up into about 2-inch chunks (or so), depending on where veins of fat ran, or silverskin. This came out to almost 3 pounds of meat; bone saved and frozen, fat and scraps discarded. Reading later, I think I should have cooked the bone in with the stew, as it would have lent more flavor. I had already frozen the bone for later use, so I didn't do this step, though at another time, I will.

This was a large recipe, and generally I don't make quite so much at once. If I had used 1 or 1 1/2 pounds of meat, I would have used 1 onion, 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida, 1 - 2 tablespoons Rogan Josh Seasoning, 2 - 3 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, a pinch of ground cardamom, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Garam Masala and 1/2 cup of yogurt.
Rogan Josh, served over Mattar Pulao

NOTE: Keep in mind that "chile powder" (below) does not mean the mixture used for making chili con carne. In the case of In dian food, it means pure, hot dried chiles, ground, preferable without seeds. It will be a hot spice, but not as how as if it is ground with seeds.

Rogan Josh

serves 6 or more

3 medium onions, cut in narrow   wedges
2 or 3 tablespoons oil or ghee, as needed
1 teaspoon asafoetida / hing, optional
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 to 3 pounds lamb for stew (beef may be substituted)
2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chile powder, use more or less, to taste
3 to 6 tablespoons Rogan Josh Seasoning (see above)
1 1/2 to 2 cups water, as needed
3/4 cup almond meal, optional
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
1 1/2 cups plain Greek Yogurt 

Heat oven to 275, or whatever temperature will maintain a low simmer. Have ready an oven safe pot or braising pan, with lid.

Heat a skillet and add in 1 tablespoon oil or ghee. Add in the onions and saute until softened, but not cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add in the garlic and the asafoetida and saute until the garlic is very fragrant, about 2 - 3 minutes. Remove onion mixture to the oven safe pot. Have the meat dried with paper toweling; if it is wet, it will not brown. Add more oil to the skillet, and brown the meat quickly over medium to medium high heat, ensuring it has good color. Do this in batches. Too much meat in the pan all at once will simply steam the meat but never truly brown. As the meat is browned, remove it to the oven safe pot. Once all meat is in the pot, sprinkle on the salt, turmeric and added chili powder, along with the Rogan Josh Seasoning. Stir well and add in 1 1/2 cups of the water. Set the pot on the hot burner and bring the mixture to boil. Cover the pot and set in the preheated oven and cook for about 2 or more hours, as needed to cook the meat tender. Check periodically to see if more water is needed to keep the mixture moist.

Remove from oven and set the pot on the stove at a low heat. Add in the almond meal (this thickens the stew slightly) and stir. Add  in the yogurt, off heat and stir in until well combined. Sprinkle in the remaining cardamom and Garam Masala and stir.To serve, garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serve the Rogan Josh with plain Basmati Rice or a rice pulao. I served mine with a Mattar Pulao (a rice dish with peas added in). 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.