Mughlai-style braised lamb shanks

Mughlai-style braised lamb shanks

I Love India
Martin Poole

The Mughals came to India in the 1500s. The word is derived from the Persian word for Mongols, who were descendants of Genghis Khan. Genghis and his sons conquered Central Asia, came as far into Europe as Poland, through Persia and eventually to India… although by the time they came to India, they had more civilized Persian sensibilities than those of their famous ancestor. The Mughals ruled parts of India for hundreds of years; the last Mughal emperor was finally deposed by the British and sent to Burma in exile in the 1800s. It is therefore no surprise that the Mughal love of meat, kebabs, breads and refined food lives on and has become as synonymous with Indian food as lentils. This curry is inspired by Mughal cooking. White poppy seeds have a delicious flavour and add a little creaminess, but if you can’t find them, add ground almonds to the sauce (and loosen with water), or a little single cream.


Quantity Ingredient
25g roughly chopped root ginger, (peeled weight)
8 large garlic cloves
100g plain yogurt
3 large tomatoes, washed and quartered
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 lamb shanks, (each about 400g-450g)
5 cloves
5cm cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods
1 mace blade
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 small onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 rounded teaspoons see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
11/2 tablespoons white poppy seeds, soaked in a little water
20 strands or so of julienned root ginger
good handful chopped coriander, to serve
roasted flaked almonds, to serve (optional)


  1. Blend together the ginger and garlic with a little water until smooth. Set aside. In the same jug, blend the yogurt and tomatoes together.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the shanks and brown on all sides; this is not traditional, but I like to do it as I prepare all the other ingredients. Remove and place on a plate.
  3. Add the whole spices and cook until they puff up a little. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until they are soft and a good golden brown on the edges. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook gently for 1–2 minutes or until the garlic smells cooked and is colouring. The onions should be a lovely colour now. Add the tomato-yogurt paste, the cumin, chilli powder, coriander and half the garam masala.
  4. Cook, stirring every now and again, and more so as it thickens, until it releases oil back into the pan. Then stir-fry for a few more minutes. Add in the lamb and cook in the sauce for a few minutes. Add enough water to come one-third of the way up, bring to the boil, then cover and cook gently until the lamb is cooked and very tender. I like to stir the pot pretty often, maybe every 15 minutes or so, this helps to homogenize the sauce, and I top up the water whenever it looks low but I never add too much at any one time. It should take around 2 hours on a medium-low to medium heat, but can take longer if the heat is too low.
  5. Meanwhile, grind the poppy seeds to a fine paste. Set aside.
  6. When the lamb is tender, take off the cover. Remove the shanks and place on a plate. Cook off some of the excess liquid, then add the poppy seed paste and cook for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add the julienned ginger and the remaining garam masala, then return the shanks. Coat well in the creamy sauce, cook for a few minutes and serve sprinkled with coriander and almonds, if using.
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