Seven irresistible Scotch lamb curry recipes

Lamb is a perfect partner for curry, so impress your loved ones with these meaty and flavoursome Indian recipes from some of Scotland's best chefs

Published 20th Aug 2015
Updated 20 th Aug 2015

Britain is a nation of curry lovers, and has been for longer than you might think. Coffee houses were serving up curries and chutneys as far back as the mid-18th century, with the first curry appearing in a British recipe book – Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy – in 1747. Lamb’s flavoursome character makes it the perfect partner with curry – a fact well known to British foodies for more than 250 years. And while the takeaway option will always be popular, few dishes are more satisfying to cook at home.

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Time: 50 minutes
Serves: Four
Difficulty: Medium

As owner of the acclaimed 63 Tay Street restaurant in Perth, not to mention 2013’s Scottish Chef of the Year, Graeme Pallister knows a thing or two about flavour. You can watch his step-by-step guide to making this delicious mixed rice dish here.

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500g 1.5 inch diced Scotch Lamb neck, shoulder or leg
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 butternut squash, cubed into 2cm squares
400g basmati rice
8 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 green chillies, finely sliced
4 bay leaves
25g fresh mint leaves
100g frozen peas
1 stock cube (lamb, chicken or vegetable)
8 whole cloves
1 large thumb of fresh ginger, finely diced
1 stick of cinnamon
1 heaped tsp turmeric
2 tsps cumin seeds
2 tsps coriander seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
or use a pre-made curry paste

Preheat oven to gas mark 7 / 220°C / 425°F.

Add the diced lamb to a pan and allow to brown all over. Once the meat has been seared, remove and fry the onions and garlic along with the chilli, ginger and whole spices (not the turmeric).

Add the turmeric and butternut squash and fry for 5mins. Place the rice into the pan and constantly stir, allowing the rice to colour. Add water (double the volume of rice), the lamb, the bay leaves and stock cube. Bring to the boil, place a lid on and put into the oven for 15mins. When the rice is softened, gently stir, season to taste, remove the bay leaves and add the peas and mint to serve.

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Time: 100 minutes
Serves: Four
Difficulty: Medium

Usually the hottest dish on the takeaway menu, this curry isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the flavourings are subtler than you might think. And as it’s a Slimming World recipe, it’s a guilt-free treat.

Photograph: Slimming World

Photograph: Slimming World

125ml white wine vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp black mustard seeds, crushed
8 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
500g lean lamb leg steaks, visible fat removed, cut into bite-sized chunks
400g can chopped tomatoes
¼ tsp sweetener
salt and freshly ground black pepper
small handful of finely chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
lime wedges, to serve

Put the vinegar in a large bowl with the onion, cumin, mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, cloves and cinnamon and a little water. Mix well to form a smooth paste, then add the lamb and stir to coat evenly. Cover the bowl and chill for 4 hours or overnight if you have time.

Put 200ml of water into a large pan over a high heat. Add the lamb mixture, tomatoes and sweetener and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, season well, cover tightly and simmer gently for 1 hour 30 minutes or until the meat is tender.

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Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Scatter over the coriander and serve with boiled basmati rice and lime wedges.


Time: 120 minutes
Serves: Four
Difficulty: Hard

One of Scotland’s best-known chefs, Hardeep Singh Kohli shared this amazing recipe with the Scotsman back in 2009, and it’s so good we thought we’d publish it again.

1 tablespoon of whole cumin
Half a dozen or so cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 or 4 cloves
Half a dozen peppercorns
A couple of bay leaves
A star anise
2 large onions, finely chopped
Three or four plump garlic cloves, minced with an inch of root ginger
Floury, robust potatoes, peeled and chopped into big chunks of carbohydrate comfort.
A tablespoon of tomato puree
Ground pepper, salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala.
A big bunch of coriander

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I will leave this to you, suffice to say that the way spice is employed in a proper curry is all about depth of flavour, not mouth-burning nonsense.

Chops are great, shoulder and leg are ideal, bone in is best. There are few more meaningful moments in life that sucking the marrow out of a curried lamb bone.

Take a big pan, the sort you'd employ for soups and stews. Line the bottom with a good glug of a flavourless oil, vegetable or sunflower, anything but olive. Remember, enough oil to fry the onions but not so much that it will make the curry unpalatable.

When the oil has taken some heat throw your cumin seeds in. They should crackle and fizz and impart their earthiness to the oil. This should take no more than 30 seconds.

Throw the onions in and fry them for a few minutes. Keep them moving every minute or so, keep them from catching.

After a few minutes hurl in the rest of your whole spices – the cardamoms, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay and star anise. These whole spices should be fried and allowed to temper the oil with their exotic flavours. After a couple of minutes throw in the garlic, chilli and ginger. Now fry this assemblage of flavours. The point is to brown the onions (without burning). Be careful not to let the garlic catch.

Once the onions are golden brown add the tomato puree. Fry this off. Once the oil separates back out from the puree/onion mixture add a teaspoon of turmeric, ground coriander, ground chilli, a teaspoon and a half of salt, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Again fry these spices for a few moments, cook the rawness out of them. Having washed the meat, add it now to the pot. Keep the whole thing moving. You want to coat the lamb in the masala and simultaneously seal the outside of the meat. Try not to brown the meat. The smells in your kitchen should reassure you of the meal that is about to come.

Once the meat is sealed, add some water to the pot. You will need to at the very least cover the meat; if you like a very liquid curry, feel free to add more water. (As my mum always says, you can always add more but ye cannae take it away.)

Bring to the boil, simmer and cover. Check every ten minutes and turn the meat over in the gravy. After half an hour or forty minutes gently drop the potatoes in and adjust water levels if needs be. When the potatoes are cooked the lamb will be too.


Time: 90 minutes
Serves: Six to eight
Difficulty: Hard

This delicious dish from The Scotch Kitchen is given some sweet notes by the inclusion of chutney.

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Photograph: The Scotch Kitchen

4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
800 g lamb shoulder meat cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp medium-hot curry paste
1 tbsp plain flour
750 ml water or vegetable stock
1 large aubergine, cut into 2 cm cubes
500 g butternut squash, cut into 2 cm cubes
4 tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp mango chutney
small handful chopped coriander leaves to serve

Pre-heat the oven to 160 C / 140 C fan / gas 2.

Gently fry the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of the oil for 3 or 4 minutes until softened, add the ginger and spices, fry for a minute more then transfer to an oven proof casserole.

Increase the heat under the frying pan, add one more tablespoon of the oil and fry the meat, in batches, until brown on all sides, about 6 minutes for each batch. Transfer to the casserole with the onions. Add the curry paste and flour to the last batch of browned meat and fry for one minute more before adding some of the water or stock and stirring well to get up all the flavoursome morsels that have stuck to the pan. Tip all this into the casserole.

Add the rest of the liquid to the curry, bring to the boil and season with salt, then cover with the lid and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes until the meat is almost tender.

Meanwhile over medium heat fry the aubergine cubes in a little extra oil for 5 minutes until lightly golden but not cooked through.

Add the aubergine, butternut squash, tomatoes and chutney to the curry and return to the oven for 25 minutes until the meat and squash are very tender. Check the seasoning.


Time: 120 minutes
Serves: Six
Difficulty: Hard

Cyrus Todiwala is one half of the duo that fronts the popular BBC cookery show Incredible Spice Men, the other half being Scottish chef Tony Singh. Todiwala’s Parsee classic is “based partially upon my mother in law’s with her brief explanations”, he says. “The cooking process is what you need to do well and the rest follows,” he adds.

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Photograph: Cyrus Todiwala

675g lamb leg or shoulder cut into 2.5cm/1inch cubes
3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 x 2-3inch piece cinnamon stick or cassia bark
6 whole green cardamom
6 whole cloves
2-3 large dried red chillies, seeded and broken into pieces
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
50g raw cashew nuts, roughly chopped
50g ground almonds
100g fine desiccated coconut
4-6 long, slender chillies, cut into 4 lengthways
500g baby new potatoes, halved
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
small handful coarsely chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a deep casserole dish and cook the  whole spices and red chillies for 3-4 minutes them remove and set aside.

In the same pan cook the lamb for 2-3 minutes on each side until brown them transfer to a large plate or tray. Drain the fat into the pan again and keep the lamb cool until the sauce is puréed.)

In the same pan melt the butter and add the cumin seeds..  Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the onions, reduce the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes to soften the onions. Do not let them brown, as the sauce is pale white in colour.

Once onions soften mix in the remaining ingredients above and add water approximately 500ml and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat, cool then purée the mixture into a smooth fine paste.

Return the sauce to the pan, add the add the lamb and the reserved spices, season cover and slow bring to the boil, stirring regularly as the nuts may stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 40 minutes then adjust the seasoning.

Add the chillies and potatoes. Cook for a further 40 minutes.

Once the lamb is cooked add the tomatoes and simmer for a 5-6 minutes then remove from the heat. Remember to keep stirring and add a little water if the sauce is too thick, but is a nice pouring consistency.

Garnish with the coriander and serve with pulao and a salad.


Time: 40 minutes
Serves: Six
Difficulty: Easy

Environmental campaign Love Food Hate Waste teamed up with spice experts Schwartz to create this delicious curry which can be made using cubes of leftover lamb from your Sunday roast. You can find more creative recipes using leftovers here.

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2 tbsp oil
2 red onions, chopped
2 tsp Schwartz garlic mill or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp Schwartz turmeric
1/2 tsp Schwartz chillies, crushed
1 tbsp Schwartz medium curry Powder
1 tbsp Schwartz coriander ground
1 tsp tomato purée
450g lamb shoulder, diced
200ml (7oz) water
4 tomatoes, quartered
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Schwartz coriander leaf
Schwartz sea salt to season
pilau rice to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the turmeric, crushed chillies, medium curry powder, ground coriander and the tomato purée and cook for a further minute.

Add the diced lamb, water, tomatoes, lemon juice and coriander.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste and serve with pilau rice.


Time: 180 minutes
Serves: Two
Difficulty: Easy

A simple recipe for those looking for a little extra zing but easy enough to cook in a short period of time with little fuss and easy spicing.

Photograph: Cyrus Todiwala

Photograph: Cyrus Todiwala

2 Lamb shanks
5-6 whole dried red chillies
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 x 2in piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tblsp ground turmeric
2 fresh green chillies, roughly chopped
1 tblsp salt
2 tblps rapeseed or mustard oil
1 x 2in piece cinnamon stick, cracked
6-8 black peppercorns
5-6 green cardamom pods, cracked
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped


Toast the red chilies, coriander  and cumin seeds an in a frying pan until aromatic, then cool and crush in a mortar with a pestle or in a small grinder until powdered but not fine.

Place the onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt and green chillies in a blender. Add 400ml of water and purée. It can be left slightly coarse but a finer purée is best.

Heat the oil until hot in a casserole or deep saucepan that has a good lid and sear the meat well on all sides.

When well browned lift off onto a plate and in the now spluttering oil add the cinnamon, cardamom (cracked on the tip) and pepper corns until cinnamon changes colour

Then pour in the puree of onion, garlic, ginger, chillies and turmeric and sauté for a minute and add the crushed or powdered chilli, cumin and coriander.

Sauté for a minute or two further and add the lamb into the pan.

Reduce heat to medium to low, cover the pot and cook for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the potatoes to the now forming gravy and cook for a further 30 minutes. You may like to add some water in case the sauce  is a little dry.  A good sign of the spices cooking well is the separation of a little oil at the edges.

Serve the shanks with steamed rice and seasonal vegetables.

• This article was produced in partnership with Quality Meat Scotland

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