ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The curry of my youth - Lamb Tikka Rogan

Back in the 80s, the longest shadow hanging over the world was the hole in the Ozone layer. Then it was Third World Debt, then the Banking Crisis.

Now it's Shit Takeaways.

I used to be staunchly of the opinion that any curry cooked at home would never be quite as good as the equivalent dish from your local Tandoori restaurant. They had the specialist equipment; The spices you can't buy anywhere without being in the know; The proper Tandoor oven.

Now I'm not so sure - while there are some perfectly good places plying their trade in the 21st century marketplaces of Just Eat and HungryHouse, there are also some right munters, pigstrotters and tugboats out there. (If you accept that these terms can apply as equally to shit takeaways as they might to someone picked up in a shit nightclub before picking up a shit takeaway!)

The Gosht of Rogans Past

When I was a child - like a really young child, four or five years old, maybe - I used to love going out for a Curry, which our family did fairly regularly. We had some great Curryhouses in South London and my favourite dish was always the Rogan Gosht. It always seems to be called Lamb Rogan Josh these days, but back in the day it was a Rogan Gosht and that was what little me always wanted to eat.

Lamb Tikka Rogan
I'm pretty sure my infant mind actually conflated it with the Holy Ghost at one point!

A few years on, and I'd diversified into stronger curries - the Madras, the Bhuna and the Jalfrezi - and it wasn't until relatively recently that I started re-engaging with milder Indian dishes. (Though the origin of the Rogan is actually believed to be Iran!)

But the first world problem of the rubbish takeaway seems to have hit this dish particularly hard. Crunchy green chillis can hide a multitude of kitchen sins, but the less hot curries taste cheap, bland, oily and just bloody unpleasant sometimes.

We've had so many bad Rogans delivered here over the last few years that I've really felt the need to perfect a recipe of my own - one that reminds of the pleasure I got from eating the dish as a child.

So, here's my simple guide to cooking up a highly rewarding Rogan Gosht, or whatever you want to call it. Fairly mild (though you can beef it up with extra chilli powder) and with a rich tomatoey flavour, it's so much better than many of today's substandard takeaways.

Lamb Tikka Rogan

This is one of those dishes where preparation is paramount and you want to be marinating your lamb overnight for the best possible results.

Cooking time is a couple of hours, though most of that involve not having to do anything.

Ingredients - serves four:

If only I had a tandoor...
Lamb, diced (bitesize), cheaper cuts are fine
Tomatoes, at least 6, quartered
Red Onions, 1 large or 2 small, roughly chopped

Red tandoori powder, about 6 decent table spoons
Cayenne chilli powder
Garlic salt
Ground Ginger
Natural yoghurt


The day before serving, marinate your lamb by mixing plenty of natural yoghurt with about four table spoons worth of Tandoori powder, and coating the lamb thoroughly, before leaving it in the fridge overnight.

You want an authentic Tandoori powder with an orangey-red colour - get it from a local market or the 'ethnic aisle' in a larger supermarket. When mixed with the yoghurt, a deep pink hue fleck with spice grains is a sign that you have the ratio just right. It almost makes up for not having a proper tandoor. Almost.

On the day of cooking, put your lamb pieces on a baking tray at about 200C and cook until the yoghurty coating just starts to slightly char.

While this is happening, take another couple of spoons of tandoori powder, and boost it by cutting with Cayenne, Paprika, Garlic salt, Ginger and plenty of Cumin.

Looking good
Melt some butter in a big, lidded pan on a high heat and add the spice mix, stirring it into the hot melty butter. After a couple of minutes add the onion and fry until it softens.

When your lamb is ready, add it into the pan, along with the tomatoes and take the heat down to about 100C.

Now it needs to simmer for a couple of hours to maximise the flavour impact. Put a lid on it and stir occasionally - you might need to add a drop of water, but if your tomatoes are juicy and the lamb was fresh, it should hydrate naturally.

I like to add another sprinkle of cayenne at the mid-way point. (For a creamier curry you could add a little yoghurt, I'm not convinced it needs it though).

You'll know when it's ready - the sauce will have thickened, the tomatoes softened and it'll all smell fantastic.

Serve with rice, any Indian side dishes you feel like, and a chilled hoppy beer. Maybe a Nanny State for any guests that are driving or Baptists.

This is one of the easiest curries to prepare and cook and has a very broad appeal. Enjoy!

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