Korma, the most popular dish in India is a mildly spiced flavourful curry of meat in a yogurt based thick sauce. It is enjoyed by all and is served on special occasions to family and friends.
Classically korma is a curry made with chicken, mutton or any other choice of meat that is braised at a high temperature, then full fat yogurt which is combined with a mixture of whole garam masala spices, stock and cream is incorporated slowly and carefully with the meat and is slow cooked to completion. During the cooking process the yogurt is kept below the curdling temperature of 200ºF. The result is a rich, creamy sauce with a velvety texture. But this method is not exactly followed by all, therefore the korma has different variations.
Different Variations of Korma
The four most popular Korma curries in the subcontinent are Mughlai, Shahi, Kashmiri and south Indian. The Shahi and Mughlai are similar to the conventional Korma recipe, yogurt is blended with almonds and the meat is braised in yogurt, onions and spices and is later simmered.
Another interesting fact to know about the korma is that it was originally white when it was first created by the Moghuls in the 16th Century. You may try the Shahi White Lamb Khorma and the White Chicken Khorma which are Moghlai versions and see how distinct they are in taste and flavour compared to the south indian korma recipe below.
This particular version of lamb korma with potatoes is very popular among the muslims in South India. It has tomatoes, turmeric, red chillies and vegetables added to the meat. The base for the south Indian Korma is coconut milk and some use even ground or grated fresh coconut which gives the korma a distinctly rich flavour. In the version below I have not used coconut because I want to keep it light to cater to the Canadian taste buds.
Another fact which is essential to remember in the Korma preparation is not to drown out the meat flavour with the overpowering masalas. The special taste lies in the delicate flavouring and balanced use of spices.
Needless to say, the caramelized onion Korma, whichever region it hails from, vegetarian or meat based, Mughlai or Shahi, is an all time subcontinental favourite.
Using fresh ingredients:
It is important to use fresh ingredients such as freshly cut onions, freshly ground ginger garlic paste, fresh tomatoes, fresh mint, green chillies and cilantro. Changing any of these and taking short cuts like using tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes would destroy its taste. Then it cannot be called authentic korma.
Cooking a decent korma in those days meant even using spices from scratch. No wonder the dishes in those days tasted so good. I remember my mom preparing the different masalas before cooking. They would be ground fresh on the sil batta (the grinding stone) in the form of a paste, either as a spice blend or separately. Red chillies and turmeric would be soaked in water prior to grinding which actually enhanced their taste. Nobody used powdered masalas in those days. Though many years later when she did start using them she would still have her own spices ground fresh at the local mill once in two weeks. She believed the spices lost their flavour if kept for too long which I feel is so true.
Also good to know that running the dry spice grinder for too long burns the spices and all their flavour is lost. Therefore it is better to grind them by pulsing so as not to let the grinder get too hot.
Right cut of meat for the Korma
It is also very important to choose the right cut of meat for this traditional dish. I choose the lamb shoulder with some spare ribs (seene ka gosht) and some leg pieces. Instead of slicing the leg or shoulder into 1 inch rounds which the present butchers do, it is essential to cut the meat into large or medium chunks and the bone marrow part should be cut into 3-4″ long pieces. This keeps the bone marrow intact otherwise it mixes with the curry while cooking thus making it heavy and the taste dimension is lost (by which I mean we sense with our taste buds but taste with our cultural senses).
How well you fried your onions is important
Another trick in getting the right taste of the traditional korma lies in how well you fried your onions. They have to be fried on a low to medium flame to a lightly golden brown colour before you add the ginger garlic paste. If not fried well they would be floating in the curry and the texture would change. And browning them too much would give a burnt & bitter taste to it.
Quick cooking in the Instant Pot:
The korma can be quickly made in the Instant pot or pressure cooker to save time unlike the olden days when the meat was first seared and then cooked slowly on the stove till completion. You could choose to either slow cook or pressure cook the Korma in the Instant Pot. You just need 10 – 15 minutes to fry the onions, sear the meat on sauté mode and then throw in all the other ingredients before you close the lid and set it on for 22 – 25 minutes.
Here’s the recipe:
1.5 kg Lamb shoulder meat
1/4 cup + 1 tbs oil
8 whole cloves
8 whole green cardamoms
2 x2”stick whole cinnamon
2 large sliced onions
3 large plum tomatoes
2 tsps coriander powder
1/2 cup yogurt
6- 8 green chillies
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh mint
2 large potatoes quartered.
1. Slice onions, quarter the tomatoes and potatoes, chop cilantro.
2. Heat the oil in the Instant pot set on sauté normal.
3. Add the whole spices immediately followed by sliced onions.
4. Fry them in the oil till they turn golden brown.
5. Add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric, red chilli and coriander powders.
6. Add the lamb pieces, salt and sauté in the masala well.
7. Now toss in the quartered tomatoes, yogurt, green chillies, mint and chopped cilantro.
8. Mix everything well. Sprinkle water around the sides of the Instant pot, close the lid, set the pressure valve to sealing position, press the meat button and set it to cook for 22-25 minutes.
9. When done do a natural pressure release(NPR).
10. Open the lid when all the steam has escaped and gently stir the curry.
11. Add the potato quarters, sprinkle some salt then close the lid. Now press the pressure cook button, set the pressure valve to sealing position and set it to cook for 5 minutes.
12. When done, after NPR open the lid.
13. Drizzle 1 teaspoon lemon juice and adjust the salt.
14. Sauté on normal for a while to slightly thicken the curry. Simmer till the oil rises on top.
15. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice, naan or paranta.
- 1.5 kg Lamb shoulder meat
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbs oil
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole green cardamoms
- 2 x2”stick whole cinnamon
- 2 large sliced onions
- 3 large plum tomatoes
- 2 tsps coriander powder
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 6- 8 green chillies
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh mint
- 2 large potatoes quartered.
Slice onions, quarter the tomatoes and potatoes, chop cilantro.
Heat the oil in the Instant pot set on sauté normal.
Add the whole spices immediately followed by sliced onions.
Fry them in the oil till they turn golden brown.
Add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric, red chilli and coriander powders.
Add the lamb pieces, salt and sauté in the masala well.
Now toss in the quartered tomatoes, yogurt, green chillies, mint and chopped cilantro.
Mix everything well. Sprinkle water around the sides of the Instant pot, close the lid, set the pressure valve to sealing position, press the meat button and set it to cook for 22-25 minutes.
When done do a natural pressure release(NPR).
Open the lid when all the steam has escaped and gently stir the curry.
Add the potato quarters, sprinkle some salt then close the lid. Now press the pressure cook button, set the pressure valve to sealing position and set it to cook for 5 minutes.
When done, after NPR open the lid.
Drizzle 1 teaspoon lemon juice and adjust the salt.
Sauté on normal for a while to slightly thicken the curry. Simmer till the oil rises on top.
Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice, naan or paranta.