Pakistani Meat and Potatoes

I grew up eating meat and potatoes at least once a day; but I never had them in a curry until I was an adult. The first time I ate this curry, it was at the home of a Pakistani friend’s mother, who put it in front of me humbly and said, “This is not much, just an everyday curry. Nothing special.”

It may not have seemed special to her, but to my tastebuds, it was absolutely delicious, and was a completely new and amazing way to cook what was a rather plain staple from my childhood. I praised it vociferously, much to her surprise, and begged for the recipe. She had never written it down, but she told me how she made it, and then said that if I wanted to, I could add tomatoes to the sauce, or near the end, I could add peas or green beans to the dish so they barely cooked, to give, as she said, “A fresh, new taste and texture.”

Or, I could do as I did New Year’s Eve, and make it with several vegetable side dishes.

This is a very easy to make curry, but it is fairly unusual in that the meat (in this case, lamb) is cooked in milk. This makes it especially tender, and makes for a thick, rich sauce, when yogurt is added and the liquid reduced. There is no heavy cream or half-and-half in this recipe, so the fat content is a bit lower than it would be for a korma. There are no ground up nuts, either, so this dish, while seeming to be rich, is lighter than one would think.

I am giving pressure-cooker instructions along with conventional cooking instructions in the method of the recipe; I make most of my long-cooked red meat curries in the pressure cooker because it cuts the cooking time by about two thirds and makes the meat very tender. That way, I can use tougher cuts of meat which are less expensive, but which have more flavor than tenderer cuts. The pressure cooker extracts the greatest amount of flavor possible, and tenderizes the meat to a delectable, fork-tender texture.

Everyday Pakistani Meat and Potatoes Curry


4 tablespoons canola oil
4 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2″ cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 whole cloves
1 1″ stick cinnamon
2 whole dried Indian chili peppers (I used the narrow red 1″ long peppers)
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 whole black cardamom
4 whole green cardamoms
1/2 tablespoon while cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 pound cubed lamb–shoulder and leg mixed if you can get it
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pound whole or halved baby potatoes
1 cup yogurt
salt to taste
roughly chopped cilantro and/or mint for garnish


Heat oil over medium high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan–cast iron is great for this–and add onions and bay leaves. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring constantly until the onions are a deep golden color and have shrunk considerably. This takes about ten minutes or more. Add the garlic and ginger, and whole spices and continue cooking until the onions are a deep reddish brown, and everything is fragrant.

Remove contents of pan to a spice grinder, pick out and reserve bay leaves, and grind everything into a paste, mix in the turmeric and paprika, and set aside.

Add lamb to the pan, and brown on all sides. Transfer lamb to a pressure cooker, and add bay leaves and spice paste. Pour in milk, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lock down lid, set pressure to highest setting and when the cooker comes to pressure, turn down heat to low and cook for about twenty five minutes. After twenty five minutes, turn off heat, and allow pressure to release naturally. (To cook this without a pressure cooker, put meat, spices and milk into a dutch oven or stew pot, cook on low heat, covered, stirring as needed, until meat is tender. Continue with directions as written from this point on.)

While meat is cooking, boil potatoes until tender, and drain well.

When pressure has come down, open cooker, and stir in yogurt and add potatoes. Cook over high flame, with the cover off to reduce liquid to a thick, velvety sauce, stirring as needed. Taste for salt and correct seasoning as needed.

Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint, and serve with basmati rice and vegetables.


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  1. Looks wonderful! What do you think I could add in place of the potatoes, since I don’t eat potatoes?

    Comment by Zoe — January 21, 2008 #

  2. Blanched cauliflower would work wonderfully, Zoe. Just make sure it is not completely tender when you put it in, so it can soak up the flavor of the sauce as it cooks, and so it will not just fall apart as the sauce cooks down.

    That sounds so good I think I will make it that way the next time.

    Comment by Barbara — January 21, 2008 #

  3. I have a question about yogurt in curry. Every time I try to add it, it curdles. I recently tried your Nice Beef Curry and it happened again, even when I used whole milk yogurt (I had hoped the curdling was due to using nonfat yogurt before).

    It’s not supposed to do that, is it?

    Comment by Neohippie — January 21, 2008 #

  4. Nonfat yogurt will curdle every time, Neohippie. Lowfat yogurt will nearly always curdle, though I am told that Greek lowfat yogurt does not curdle.

    Full fat yogurt generally doesn’t curdle, but if it does, here are a couple of things to try.

    One, whisk your yogurt before putting it in the curry to make it smooth and to distribute the fat evenly.

    Two, incorporate the yogurt slowly–heaping tablespoon by tablespoon, if necessary, stirring to incorporate between each spoonful.

    Three–add yogurt at the end when the dish is only simmering–not boiling. When you incorporate the yogurt, simmering liquid is a little less of a shock to it.

    You could also “temper” the yogurt the way you do eggs–whisk a ladleful or two fo the hot curry sauce into the yogurt to bring it up to temperature, and then stir it in the curry sauce pot. That can sometimes help.

    If there is cream to be added to the recipe as well as the yogurt, whisk it into the yogurt and add them together–the extra fat will help keep the yogurt from curdling.

    I will say that the yogurt I use is fairly high in fat, so I never have a problem with it. But, when I have tried to use lower fat yogurts–it always mucks up.

    The two brands of store bought yogurt I use are Brown Cow and Seven Stars. I never have a problem with either of them. I have also used a couple of different types of full fat Greek yogurt with no trouble.

    Give these tips a try and let me know how they do for you. When in doubt, turn your fire down lower, let the sauce slow down to a simmer and then add the yogurt a bit at a time, and stir in between to incorporate it before you add more.

    I hope these tips work for you!

    Comment by Barbara — January 21, 2008 #

  5. I read this recipe and my mouth just started to water. Where oh where, in northeast Ohio, could I find whole cardamoms and dried Indian chilies? (Not at the Giant Eagle, that’s for sure!) Are there any substitutes I might be able to use?

    Comment by Texpatriate — January 22, 2008 #

  6. I concur with Barbara on the yogurt suggestions. I use whole milk yogurt and it hardly ever breaks. I add it slowly, and NEVER boil it. Also, covering it seems to make it unhappy as well (same for coconut milk curries).

    I use the pressure cooker only for dals and meat curries as well. As far as I can figure, no one in the US seems to use a pressure cooker any more except those with a background from South Asia. A shame as it really is a most useful tool.

    Comment by Diane — January 22, 2008 #

  7. Wow, this sounds amazing! I always enjoy reading your blog, Barbara. Thank you!

    My husband doesn’t like to eat lamb. I wondered if substituting another kind of meat might work? Surely it will be a different flavor, but I wondered if it would still be a good dish if I subbed beef. Thank you for your time responding!

    Comment by Olga — January 22, 2008 #

  8. Olga, I am glad you are enjoying the blog.

    I have eaten and cooked this recipe with beef several times and while I prefer it with lamb, it is quite good with beef.

    It would also be good with venison, if you had access to it, or goat.

    Comment by Barbara — January 22, 2008 #

  9. Texpatriate, you can use cardamom seeds–those usually are available in grocery stores. For the whole Indian chilies, you can use 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne–but add it with the turmeric and paprika. If you add it with the whole spices, it will burn.

    What part of northern Ohio are you in? If you are near Cleveland, Akron, Canton or Toledo, you should be able to find an Indian market in one of these cities. Even if you don’t live in one of these places, if you travel to them for any reason, you should be able to find one or two Indian markets and stock up on spices that way.

    The other thing you can do is order stuff from Penzey’

    Diane–there are a few Appalachians who still use pressure cookers, just like Mom and Grandma used to, though most of them switched to crockpots, sadly.

    I prefer pressure cookers.

    Comment by Barbara — January 22, 2008 #

  10. Barbara, I am definitely bookmarking this recipe to try later – just the sort of thing you want on a cold winter day! (Afraid I’ll be using a crockpot most likely, though, as I do like to be able to set it going in the morning and forget about it until dinner time!)

    Comment by Meg — January 23, 2008 #

  11. Thanks for the yogurt suggestions. I’ll try adding it more slowly next time. When I tried it before I just kind of dumped it in, assuming with whole milk yogurt I would be safe. Next time I’ll be more gentle. 🙂

    Comment by Neohippie — January 23, 2008 #

  12. Meg–if you use a crockpot, follow the instructions for cooking up to where you open the pressure cooker and allow the liquid to reduce.

    When you get home from work, you can either remove the meat and juice from the crockpot and put it into a regular pot and put it on to boil so as to reduce the sauce, and then add the potatoes and yogurt, or you can turn your crockpot onto high and remove the lid and do the same thing.

    The first way is faster, but it dirties another pot. It is up to you how you do it. But, reducing the liquid to a thick sauce is a necessary step.

    Comment by Barbara — January 24, 2008 #

  13. Great, thanks for the cauliflower suggestion! I will definitely let you know how it turns out when I get around to making it. (You’ll probably beat me to it!)

    Comment by Zoe — January 28, 2008 #

  14. Great post! Thanks for the tips on how to cook them on a crockpot(I guess I’m one of those who use crockpots). I will definitely try this out. Judging by the photos, they sure look tasty. Thanks for posting this.


    Comment by Food and Recipes — April 15, 2008 #

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