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Guest recipes with Serene Tharian


Nadan Lamb Curry

In Kerala generally, lamb or mutton is used to make this curry. Mutton or lamb is best cooked slow, to merge the spices and flavour the meat. I prefer to either use a slow cooker or a pan or wok that has a lid.

There is a story about a lamb curry that has been called the Railway Lamb Curry. The story goes that British officers riding the trains in South India were served our traditional Lamb Curry which was inevitably too spicy for the faint of heart and it was returned to the kitchen where coconut milk was added to make the dish more suited for the not so brave of taste.

It became so popular that the now famous Railway Lamb Curry was soon being prepared in most colonial homes, and in the first-class cars of trains.

The story goes that in the north of India, chefs would usually add yoghurt while in the south, it was coconut milk.

I have prepared the recipe for our traditional mutton curry from Kerala, also called the Nadan (local) Mutton Curry. I would recommend using bone-in mutton or lamb pieces as they pack more flavour and taste so much better when used in stews and curries. The neck and shoulder are what I prefer to use in curries because they can be cooked slowly in the spices and absorb more flavour.


Mutton or lamb- 1 kilo, cut into medium pieces and marinated with 2 tablespoons garlic ginger paste and the juice of 1 lemon for at least an hour

3 large onions, thinly sliced

3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into small pieces

12 cloves of garlic chopped

2 inch ginger chopped

3 green chilies sliced

¾ tablespoon chilli powder (adjust to taste)

½ tablespoon turmeric powder

3 tablespoon coriander powder

1 tsp pepper powder

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 tablespoon cumin powder

3 sprigs curry leaves

3 cardamoms

1 inch cinnamon piece

5 cloves

Handful chopped coriander leaves

Water 2 cups

Coconut oil 5 tablespoon or as needed

Salt to taste


Wash the mutton pieces thoroughly in water and vinegar. I like to soak my meat in a water-vinegar mixture for half hour and then wash them clean. Drain and set aside.

Heat coconut oil in a deep pan or a large wok, and toast the coconut flakes until slightly brown and nutty. Remove and keep aside.

Cool the oil slightly so as not to burn the whole spices, and add cardamom, cinnamon, cloves to flavour the oil. Add in the sliced onions and sauté until translucent.

Add the chopped ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves and sauté until the raw smell disappears. This is a slow process so take your time to sauté and smell often to make sure the favours are all blended.

Add chopped tomatoes and sauté till the mixture has blended well.

Add in the turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, pepper, garam masala, cumin and sauté until the raw smell goes. Add a little more oil if the mixture dries. When you have cooked it long enough the oil will separate from the mixture.

Now add the mutton pieces and combine well. Stir well till the meat is coated in the mixture. Let it cook for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium flame. Then add water, salt and mix well. (If you are using a slow cooker, this is the time to transfer the contents of your pan to the slow cooker.)

Close the pan and cook on a medium fire. The longer it cooks on a medium flame or in the slow cooker the softer the meat gets. Open your pan or pot to check on water levels. Add small amounts of water if you see it drying.

Once cooked and you are happy with the thickness of the gravy, add the coriander leaves and the toasted coconut. If the gravy is not thick enough, open the pan and cook so the liquid evaporates and it thickens.

From here on if you want to make a railway lamb curry, add half cup coconut milk and cook for an extra 6 minutes on a medium flame.

Serve with rice or any kind of roti


Serene runs amateur cooking club The Best Exotic Kerala Kitchen, where cooking lessons are held for friends and family. Tel: 99 222462

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