Rogan josh, saffron mash & onion salad

by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed

A creamy, fragrant, highly traditional version of the take-away favourite

Rogan josh is, of course, a much-loved Indian takeaway dish. To my surprise and delight the Mughals are credited with the creation of this classic. However, I must say that the original version was vastly different—and in a very good way! It is creamy and fragrant without being overtly spicy and has a slightly thinner consistency. In fact, ‘rogan’ means ‘clarified butter’ or ‘fat’ in Persian—this dish definitely does have a beautiful buttery note.


10 cloves
700g boneless lamb (shoulder or leg), cubed
100g butter
2 large onions
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tsp mild Kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cardamom
A pinch of saffron threads

For the saffron mash:
75g butter
A good pinch of saffron threads
1kg maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tbsp milk

For the pickled red onion salad:
1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 heaped tsp sugar
½ red chilli, thinly sliced

Muslin cloth


Put 1½ litres water into a large pan and bring to the boil. Tie the cloves in a muslin cloth and add this to the boiling water, together with the cubed lamb. Allow the lamb to simmer gently for about 30 mins, occasionally removing any scum that rises to the surface with a ladle.

In a separate large pan, melt half the butter over a low heat, add the onions and fry gently until they turn a deep golden brown—about 20-25 mins. Remove the onions from the heat, allow them to cool a little and then blitz to a purée in a food processor or blender (you may need to add a few tbsp warm water to loosen the purée). Return the onion purée to the pan, add the garlic, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric and cardamom, and stir for 1-2 mins.

Remove and discard the bag of cloves from the lamb and then add the lamb, together with the liquid it was simmering in, to the pan of onions. Simmer for another 30-45 mins, or until the lamb is soft and falls apart easily.

Meanwhile, prepare the saffron mash. Melt the butter in a pan and add the saffron. Remove from the heat and allow the saffron to steep in the butter for at least 15 mins, until the butter changes colour to a vivid shade of yellow. Boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water until cooked through—about 15 mins.

While the potatoes are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the pickled red onion salad together in a bowl and set aside for at least 15 mins before serving.

Once cooked, drain the potatoes thoroughly in a colander and then transfer to a large bowl. Add the saffron butter together with the milk and mash well, making sure there are no lumps. Season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Alternatively, you can use a potato ricer to create a smooth effect. Be cautious of overbeating, as you don’t want the potatoes to have a gluey texture.

When the lamb has finished simmering, add the saffron and the remaining butter and stir until you have a sauce with the consistency of double cream. Season to taste with salt before serving with the saffron mash and pickled red onion salad.

Recipe: Saliha Mahmood Ahmed