Lamb and lentils slow cooked to make the perfect recipe . . . dalcha!!

February 7th, 2012

the perfect dalcha (a slow-cooked Indian ‘lamb stew’ with lentils). see how easy it is to do this lamb recipe!

In 1991, when I decided to start my (sorry, I had a partner), when WE decided to start our first restaurant in Sydney ‘I’ was determined that this was not going to be another ‘curry house’. No way!!

I wasn’t going to cook any ‘bl..dy’ curries, not after having spent my time working with the Indian ‘masters’ (I called them ustaads), who taught me a simple lesson which I still hold true today.

“Son,” they said, “Indian food is a complete art. You can ‘see’ this art being created, you can ‘touch’ it, you can ‘hear’ the music when tempering a dish, you certainly can ‘smell’ the aromas wafting through the air, and last but not the least, you can ‘taste’ it.”

savouring the aromas wafting through the air

And they were right. Cooking is the perfect art that uses all the five senses!!

So, keeping these guidelines in mind we carefully worked out our menu and for the first time Sydneysiders got a chance to savour Indian food in its true form.

We had dishes like prawn balchao (marinated prawns in a spicy mix), chicken xacutti (a spicy chicken dish with cinnamon) and caril de piexe (another spicy dish, this time using fish with vinegar and coconut and chillies and so much more!) all from Goa, kozhi vartha kari (chicken pieces cooked in aromatic spices) from Tamil Nadu, meen porichattu (marinated fish cooked the Muslim way!) from Kerala, paththar ka gosht (slow-cooked lamb with cassia), shikampoor (delicious stuffed lamb kebabs), tali hui machali (pan fried fish with a spice crust), khatti meethi dal (sweet and sour dal), dalcha (lamb cooked with dal) and many more, along with my favourite masala dosai!!

However, the one dish that sold the most after the masala dosai was the dalcha.

I think the dalcha was so popular because it was the closest thing to eating a dal and roganjosh (lamb and lentils) with rice!! It was like an Indian lamb stew (or you may like to call it a broth) for the Sydneysiders!

So, here is how we made it then and how we still make it in my restaurant!

And yes folks, you’ve guessed it, this week’s garam masala is for, that’s right, red meat!!

If you’ve missed the other garam masala series that cover poultry, seafood, vegetarian and vegan meals, click six basic spice mixes

Ingredients for the red meat garam masala are as follows:

Step 1

red meat garam masala contains: 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 nutmeg (that has been grated!) and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Step 2

ground garam masala
grind the spices until they resemble coarse sand

Step 3

ingredients (clockwise from 12 o’clock) in the tray: slit green chillies, ground ginger, juice of a lemon, ground garlic, salt, ground red chilli, ground turmeric, crushed coriander seeds, vegetable oil; on the outside: chick pea lentils, yoghurt, diced lamb 


add 1 cup lentils (you might know them as yellow split peas) to mixing bowl

Step 5

add 3 cups water (at room temperature)

Step 6

set aside to soak for about 15 minutes


add garam masala mix (2 1/2 tablespoons for about 1 kg meat)

Step 8

add 1 tablespoon ground chilli powder

Step 9

add 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Step 10

add 2 tablespoons ground coriander

Step 11

mix spices together

Step 12

add 2 1/2 cups full-cream yoghurt

Step 13

fold yoghurt into spice mixture

Step 14

keep folding until mixture is smooth

Step 15

add 1 kg diced lamb

Step 16

make sure lamb is well coated with yoghurt mixture

Step 17

keep mixing yoghurt and meat until smooth then set aside for about 15 minutes


heat saucepan and add 1/2 cup polyunsaturated vegetable oil

Step 19

when oil is smoking, add sliced onions and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Step 20

fold onions till they star to caramelise!

If you want to see a simple video on how to caramelise onions, go to the techniques page of my blog.
Bringing it all together

Step 21

add 1 tablespoon ground garlic when onions have started to caremelise

Step 22

fold garlic into caramelising onions

Step 23

add 1 tablespoon ground ginger and fold

Step 24

when onions have caramelised, add marinated meat – set aside mixing bowl, you’ll need it in a moment!

Step 25

fold meat into caramelised onions

Step 26

keep folding until meat is seared

Step 27

drain lentil water into marinated meat mixing bowl

Step 28

add lentils to seared meat (with as little water as possible since you want the lentils to absorb the flavours of the marinade as they cook, not boil in water)

Step 29

mix the lentil water with the remains of the marinade to produce ‘lentil stock’

Step 30

pour ‘lentil stock’ into pan when meat is seared and oil starts to appear, reduce heat to medium

Step 31

fold lentil stock into meat

Step 32

place shallow frying pan on stove (you will need one large enough for the meat saucepan to sit in)

Step 33

place meat saucepan into frying pan

Step 34

add sliced green chillies

Step 35

place clean stainless steel mixing bowl on top of saucepan

Step 36

add 3/4 cup water to mixing bowl

Step 37

use 3/4 cup of water

Step 38

water will evaporate (approx. 50 minutes) – when it has almost disappeared, turn off stove

Step 39

remove mixing bowl with tea tea towel as it will be hot!

Step 40

the meat will (should!) look like this

Step 41

add lemon to taste (I am using my hands as a ‘sieve’)

Step 42

fold lemon juice into meat

Step 43

serve with steamed basmati rice 

Step 44

add tempered kari leaves for an extra ‘oomph’!!

Folks, try this dish with goat or even lamb shanks, serve it with a bread of your choice, a simple salad of fresh greens and you have the most amazing and satisfying meal on the table!! For a one page summary of this recipe, click dalcha recipe.

If there are any leftovers (this does occasionally happen in my house as Meera doesn’t eat red meat, however usually Aniruddh and I generally wallop half the contents in one sitting!

However, as I started saying, should there be any leftovers keep them in an earthenware pot, covered. Place the pot in a ‘waterbath’ and leave overnight. It’s as simple as that, it’s the way many people cook in India and it preserves the meat. Make fresh basmati rice and serve the dalcha on to the hot rice . . . just like a Nihari!!

Need help with making basmati rice or tempering kari leaves? Then watch these quick videos and if you’re a diaspora Indian listen and weep!:

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Next week we have a ‘BIG’ surprise for you….

Till then, happy cooking!! Oh, and last, but by no means least, if you’ve got any feedback, your mother’s best recipe for this dish that has its own quirks, or any comment at all, I really enjoy hearing from you! So, let’s get the chat flowing, until then. . .

Anah daata sukhi bhava!!


  1. Ajoy Joshi

    Thanks for your email.
    I am not sure what exactly do you mean when you say …….!!
    Please elaborate for me to respond.

  2. smkvibes

    I’m about to make this dish right now! But I have some concerns: I’ve seen so many recipes, like this one, that tell you to cook with the remaining marinade, but I’ve also read elsewhere that you shouldn’t do this for health risk reasons. Now I’m confused as what to do!?

  3. Ajoy Joshi

    Hi Sree,
    Thanks for your query.
    Yes you can certainly make it without dairy.
    I suggest you use a combination of tomatoes and tamarind water.
    Which means add the chopped tomatoes first and cook then add aprox 1 teaspoon of tamarind concentrate soaked in 1/4 cup of warm water ,to the sauce and proceed as per the recipe.
    Happy cooking!!

  4. Sree

    Can this be made without yogurt ? Asking because of a dairy allergy

  5. prayerfornorthkorea

    I have favorited this blog and do intend to cook from here starting from the dum ka murgh which brought me to this blog….. the sole reason being that you use authentic home made garam masala…. I keep telling people to do the grind…. but they think buying a packet with ‘who knows what’s in it’ masala is easier….. I am so glad I found this…. you’re doing good work…. I will now direct others who want to cook straight here…….thanks again

  6. Spandana

    Lovely… I never tried lamb with lentils.. tanks a ton for sharing!!
    Loved reading your blog, and thanks for stopping by !!

  7. Neha Pradhan

    Amazing! Another one to try at home!

Comments are closed.


Garam Masalas