Smoky red Kashmiri chile powder and rich ghee are the foundations of the sauce for tender lamb shanks in this classic dish served as part of the Kashmiri feast called wazwaan. Cooked for weddings and other auspicious occasions, the wazwaan is comprised of 36 dishes, the majority of them lamb. The wazas, or cooks, who prepare the meal come from long lines of chefs schooled in the art. This recipe, from Ahdoo’s Hotel in Srinagar, Kashmir, first appeared in the tablet edition of our August/September 2014 special India issue.
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. red chile powder, preferably Kashmiri, or cayenne
- 2 tsp. ground fennel
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. asafoetida
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 8 green cardamom pods
- 2 pieces mace or 1 tsp. ground mace
- 1 stick cinnamon, halved
- 1⁄3 cup ghee
- 5 black cardamom pods, cracked
- 4 lamb shanks, halved crosswise (ask your butcher to do this)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1⁄4 tsp. saffron threads
- 2 tbsp. roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Cooked white rice or naan bread, for serving (optional)
- Stir chile powder, fennel, ginger, asafoetida, and 1⁄2 cup water in a bowl into a paste; set aside. Combine cumin, green cardamom, mace, and cinnamon in a spice grinder; grind into a powder and set aside.
- Melt ghee in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook black cardamom until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Season lamb with salt; cook, turning as needed, until browned, 5–7 minutes. Add reserved paste, the saffron, and 2 cups water; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until lamb is tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in reserved spice powder; cook, covered, until lamb is very tender, 40–45 minutes. Garnish with cilantro; serve with rice or naan if you like.