meat pepper fry

Atul Kochhar

From Kerala, this curry has very little gravy and is a common recipe among the Christians of the region, where it is usually made with mutton or goat. I had lots of classmates from Kerala at my catering college and they were all experts at cooking curries like this. I was fortunate to learn first-hand from the masters. My career owes so much to George; he was an absolutely amazing chef and this is his favourite curry. Whenever I’m in Kerala, I try to meet up with him.

I have actually been very cautious with the black pepper here, although it might look like a lot. If a Keralan chef were making this, they would use lots and lots of pepper, so feel free to add as much as you like. All you need is some bread to serve with this.

serves 4 people

600g boneless lamb rump or neck fillet
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground, or to taste
1 heaped tbsp coconut oil
2 onions, finely sliced
5 fresh or dried curry leaves
2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp onion paste (see the Calcutta chicken curry recipe)
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

01 Cut the lamb into bite-sized pieces, trimming and discarding any fat, then set aside. 

02 Put the lamb, 200ml of water, the vinegar, ½ tsp of the freshly ground pepper and ½ tsp of sea salt in a large heavy-based saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave the meat to simmer gently for 8 minutes. Strain the meat, reserving the cooking liquid.

03 Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in a large sauté or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, curry leaves, ginger, garlic and a pinch of sea salt, and stir until the onions are lightly coloured. Add the onion paste and turmeric and stir for 30 seconds.

04 Add the meat to the pan and stir in half of the reserved cooking liquid, which will be absorbed and evaporate quite quickly. Add the remaining liquid a little at a time, stirring until it mostly evaporates. With the last addition, the gravy should resemble a thin paste coating the lamb, which should be tender.

05 Stir in 1 tsp of the freshly ground pepper, add more salt if necessary, and continue to stir until all the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with the coriander leaves and about ½ tsp of the ground pepper just before serving.