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Railway Lamb Curry

Lamb curry with coconut milk

  • Heat Mild
  • Serves 6
  • Prep 15 mins
  • Marinade 3 hrs
  • Cook 50 mins
Railway Lamb Curry

A dish served on the railway for First Class passengers dating back to the time of the British Raj

Hari says

During the British Raj, Robert Maitland Brereton was given the task of expanding the rail roads in India. He had to create the longest most complex network of railways to connect the richest colonies across the country.

In 1903, for the first time, mail and express trains came equipt with full dining carts and the food they served left it's mark on the Indian hospitality industry. A train called 'Frontier Mail (renamed Golden Temple Mail after independence)' had an amazing restaurant car which created some very special dishes. Run by Western Railway, the train was considered the Rolls Royce of its time. It was luxurious with a shower, a salon and even a steam room. It served inimitable dishes with a real fusion of British and Indian culture. Western meals were served with bread rolls, it was the first time that Roast Chicken was introduced to the Indian palate, it included Madras style spicy mutton curry and rice and even chicken cutlets or kebabs. This is where the infamous Railway Mutton Curry was born and since its inception on the railway dining cart it has since been served in the grandest of hotels such as The Oberoi and Made in Punjab.

The story goes that a drunken British officer stumbled into the kitchen looking for midnight snack but the dinner service had ended and the cooks were making food for themselves. One of the dishes they were cooking was the Calcutta Mangsho Jhol. This is a robust curry cooked with mutton, potatoes and mustard oil. It's dark and oily in nature and is known for it's homestye fiery taste. Unsuitable for the officer, the cooks tweaked the flavour very quickly using yoghurt and coconut milk to sweeten it up. Thrilled with the flavours the officer ordered it every time he was on the train, and it was fondly given the name the Railway Mutton Curry. 

This recipe is a version of the Railway curry using lamb and coconut cream making it mild and tasty. I have also used less oil then you would for a traditional Bengali meat curry and by using Kashmiri chilli powder the dish is more red in colour and mild in heat but if you want to spice it up just add a few extra green chillies - it is truely wonderful.


  • Ingredients
  • Method


  • 900g mutton / lamb
  • 5cm piece ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp of mustard oil
  • 1 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Spice mix

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns


  • 1 tbsp mustard oil
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 4 green cardamom
  • 7cm cassia bark
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, pureed / 400g tin
  • 3 red potatoes, peeled and quartered (ideally a waxy potato)
  • 5 cm piece ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 green chillies, sliced lengthwise
  • salt, to taste
  • 200g coconut cream

To finish

  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • ¼ nutmeg, grated


  1. Pound the ginger and garlic to a paste and use to marinate the meat along with the yogurt, turmeric powder, mustard oil, red chilli powder, salt for as long as possible (3 hours or overnight) in the refrigerator.
  2. Dry roast fennel seeds, black peppercorn, coriander and cumin seeds and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Heat oil and add the whole spices to the pan - black cardamom, green cardamom, cassia, cloves, bay and mace. Once aromatic add the sliced onions.
  4. Stir and once they start to brown add the ginger and garlic. Stir and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Stir in the pureed tomatoes, sliced chillies, turmeric, red chili powder along with the ground spice mix, a little salt and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the marinated mutton and increase the heat to a high and stir to sear the meat.
  7. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the meat with the lid on the pan.
  8. Cook for 10 minutes, once the meat releases it juices add the potatoes and stir. Turn to low and leave to cook for 40-50 minutes until tender.
  9. Stir in the coconut milk and give everything a good stir. Add a spoonful of ghee and ¼ tsp of garam masala and grate in the nutmeg.
  10. Close the lid and let the flavours seep into the meat for 10-12 minutes and serve with steamed rice.

*Note: If you are using an everyday potato (Maris Piper etc) add later so they cook for approx. 25 minutes.

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