Slow cooked authentic Cape Malay Lamb Curry is fragrant with whole and powdered spices and herbs, in a delicious gravy that smothers tender bites of meat and potato. Served with fluffy basmati rice or if you’re feeling fancy, with roti, it makes a wonderful main course.
Funerals tend to be quick affairs soon after the deceased has passed but the one thing that is never neglected is the food served to mourners after the burial rituals have been completed. The best Cape Malay lamb curry that I recall from childhood was made for the funeral of the mother of my mom’s childhood friend, Aunty Baby.
The copious amounts of onions, tomatoes, lamb pieces, spices and potatoes were cooked in huge pots over enormous gas burners in the back yard at Aunty Baby’s house. To stir any one of these pots required a paddle size wooden stirrer that was too heavy for me to even lift. I don’t know how my mother did it but she cooked these huge pots of Cape Malay lamb curry and it was the most delicious curry I had ever tasted.
The meat was tender, the sauce was mildly spicy with a hint of sweetness from the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves as well as the sugar that my mother added to take neutralise the acidity of the tomatoes. The powdered cumin, coriander and turmeric added brightness and earthy savory undertone. The potatoes were perfectly cooked and although not falling apart were fork tender and combined well with a bit of the gravy.
I have only tasted lamb curry like my mom’s in two other places over the years. The first was in Malaysia on a trip in 2017, when we passed a hawker stall in Kampung Baru with mutton curry that looked and tasted exactly like my mother’s. The second place was at Zafran restaurant near to my office when they had a seasonal special called Cochin Mutton Masala. The curry sauce and even the flaky roti that they served it on took me back to my childhood with every bite. If you are wondering why we have the similarity with South East Asian and South Asian cooking you may want to read My Cape Malay DNA Ethnicity decoded.
When I was a child my mother also sent my father to buy the curry leaves from a shop in Rylands on the way home from school. When we stopped getting fresh curry leaves she would get a stock of dried curry leaves but it never quite tasted the same. In later years it was more easy to find fresh curry leaves and she started using it again. That being said, it can be left out without altering the basic deliciousness of the curry.
What to eat with Cape Malay Lamb curry
- Fluffy basmati rice – plain or fragrant with butter, garlic and cumin
- Flaky Cape Malay roti
- Naan bread
- Pickled Tomato and Onion sambal (Uie en tamatie slaai)
How to make flavourful and fragrant Cape Malay Lamb curry
- The most important thing to remember about Cape Malay Lamb curry is that the spices are warming, sweet and earthy but don’t blow the roof off your mouth.
- The meat is cooked in a thick gravy of onions, tomato and spices and the potato is added near the end.
- Slow cooking is what is required here, to get fork tender meat and potatoes. Rapid cooking doesn’t give the same taste or texture to the curry.
- Curry leaves are give a lovely aroma but can be left out if not easily available without any deficiency in the end result.
- A handful of chopped coriander added before serving gives a fresh taste.
- No fancy spices like fenugreek or garam masala required.
Authentic Cape Malay Lamb Curry
- 60 ml sunflower oil approximately 1/4 cup
- 400 grams onion, finely chopped approximately 2 medium onions
- 140 grams tomato, finely chopped or grated approximately 1 large tomato
- 5 ml granulated sugar approximately 1 teaspoon
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cardamom pods, bruised
- 4 allspice berries
- 4 cloves
- 30 ml crushed garlic approximately 2 tablespoons
- 30 ml grated ginger root approximately 2 tablespoons
- 5 ml turmeric powder approximately 1 teaspoon
- 7.5 ml red chilli powder approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 5 ml chilli flakes approximately 1 teaspoon
- 7.5 ml cumin powder approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 7.5 ml coriander powder approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 5 curry leaves
- 1 kg stewing lamb pieces, rinsed and patted dry
- 5 ml salt, adjust to taste approximately 1 teaspoon
- 500 grams potato, peeled and cut into quarters approximately 4 medium potatoes
- 60 ml hot water approximately 1/4 cup
- 30 ml coriander leaves, chopped approximately 2 tablespoons
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and add the chopped onions. Sauté until translucent, about 15-20 minutes.
- Add the chopped and grated tomato and cook together until the onions and tomato look golden, another 10 minutes.
- Add all the sugar, all the spices and the water and simmer together for 8-10 minutes to mingle the flavors and cook out the spices. The water prevents the spices from burning.
- Add the stewing lamb and salt and mix together to cover all the meat in the spice mix. Replace the lid on the pot and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and stir through so that it gets covered in the curry sauce. Cook for another 25-35 minutes until the meat and potatoes are fork tender but not mushy.
- Check the seasoning and add more salt if required.
- Add the chopped coriander and give it a final mix through.
- Serve hot with roti, naan or fragrant basmati rice.
Disclaimer: Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
Don’t forget to share the recipe with your family and friends and #tantalisemytastebuds if you share one of my recipes that you made on Instagram!
Want more? To get new recipes delivered straight to your inbox, join our club and subscribe to Tantalise My Taste Buds.