Roganjosh, a dish traditionally prepared with lamb meat is one of the many culinary gifts from Kashmir to the nation.
For a long time, like many, I was also under the impression that this signature Kashmiri dish came to India with the advent of the Mughals. But it actually came to Kashmir via the Silk Route, much before the Mughals came to India.
‘Rogan’, in Persian means oil and ‘Josh’ refers to strength. With its shinning dark-reddish appearance ‘Roganjosh’ is certainly not a misnomer. Traditionally, the unique sparkling dark-red hue of the dish neither comes from Kashmiri mirch (red chilli) powder nor from tomato; it comes from a special ingredient called ‘Ratanjot’ or ‘Ratanjor’. It is a herb, extracted from the bark of a flowering plant (the flowers are blue in colour) that grows in Kashmir (also in few other parts of India). Ratanjor is known to possess a lot of health benefits and also used as a natural dye. I had procured it from from a popular online store. Prepared with this herb Roganjosh is a signature dish of the Kashmiris usually prepared during special occasions.
Fundamentally, there are two styles of preparation of Roganjosh – the Kashmiri Hindu style and Kashmiri Muslim style. Unlike the latter the Kashmiri Hindu style of preparing the dish does not include onion or garlic. Here, for the sake of simplicity, I am going to describe the preparation without onion or garlic.
The way it is prepared by many eateries has led to the misconception that Roganjosh is an overtly rich, hot and spicy dish. On the contrary if I compare it with some other popular Indian mutton or lamb curry dishes – prepared with the usual mix of onion, garlic, garam masalas and sometimes even with cashew nut paste, etc we will find despite its rich colour it is only mildly spicy. Roganjosh owes its ‘hotness’ (considering the cold climate of Kashmir) to the liberal used of ghee and of course the meat itself. Even if you want to, restrain yourself from using too much Kashmiri mirch (red chilli) powder. In fact if I ever prepare Roganjosh for any of my European friends (who are usually not used to having lot of hot spices) I may simply omit the chilli powder. Ratanjor is good enough to lend that typical colour to the dish.
Lamb or goat meat: 1 kg, boneless, preferably fatless portion of meat from the hind leg ( ‘Raan’ in Hindi).
Mustard oil or Ghee 3 tablespoon (or can be mix of both).
Ginger powder (use fresh ginger paste in case you do not have it in powdered form): 1 teaspoon.
Fennel seed powder: 1 teaspoon.
Kashmiri mirch (red chilli) powder: 1 tablespoon.
A pinch of hing (asafoetida).
Salt to taste.
Water: 500 ml.
Ratanjor: Couple of pieces
Heat the ghee and/or mustard oil.
Put in the meat pieces.
Add ginger powder.
Add fennel seed powder.
Mix them well and cook for about 8 to 10 mins.
After it releases some water add hing (asafoetida) and Kashmiri mirch powder.
Cook it for another 8 to 10 mins.
Add half-litre of lukewarm water, stir once to mix everything well and pressure-cook it on low to medium heat till the meat is fully done. When done, the meat should be ready to fall off the bone although there is no bone here.
Now comes the moment to add a dramatic twist to your dish. In a small pan melt (on low flame) about 1 tablespoon of ghee and add couple of pieces of ratanjor into it. Within a few seconds you will find the oil turning gradually dark-red in colour. Saute for another a minute or so (ghee should not burn) and then add it to over the cooked meat. Cook it for few more minutes before putting off the flame. Keep it standing for 10 more minutes. The gravy for Roganjosh is usually light but not at all watery.
Skim off and store in a small bowl the shiny oily gravy (called ‘rogan’), if exists, from the top of the dish. Later, while serving Roganjosh spread a dollop of the stored oily gravy on each individual bowl to retain the shiny appearance.