Lucknow, a city renowned among India's Muslims for its elegant way of life, is where this refined, highly aromatic dish comes from. We printed the recipe last January in Charles Perry's review of Camellia Panjabi's "The Great Curries of India." The recipe calls for kewra essence, an exotic flavoring reminiscent of roses, jasmine and sandalwood that is made from one of the many varieties of pandanus leaves. It can be overwhelming, so be careful not to add too much. Buy it at Indian grocers and import shops or use rose water instead. And be sure to use yogurt without thickeners like gelatin or tapioca, which could change the texture of the dish.
Serve this dish over rice.
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom or 1 green cardamom pod
2 to 3 teaspoons kewra essence or rose water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) raw cashews
4 serrano chiles, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 to 3 lamb shanks, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds total
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
3/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or 3 green cardamom pods, husked and crushed
1 quart water
Juice of 1 lime
Mix cinnamon, cloves, pepper and cardamom. If using green cardamom pod, remove seeds from husk and pound to powder before adding.
Lightly crush several threads of saffron and soak in kewra essence at least 15 minutes. Set aside.
Slice onions thin and heat 1/4 cup oil in skillet. Add onions and fry until medium brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cashews and fry until onions are quite brown, 5 minutes longer. Tip skillet up and use spatula to press oil out of onion mixture. Discard oil and transfer onion mixture to bowl. When cool, puree in food processor.
Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in skillet and add chiles, bay leaves, ginger, garlic, lamb shanks, coriander, 1/2 Garam Masala and salt. Saute over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring continuously.
Reduce heat to low. Add cayenne and yogurt, stir continuously 3 minutes and simmer until yogurt is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 Garam Masala, mace and cardamom and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add water, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until lamb shanks are tender, 2 hours.
When lamb is done, remove to warm oven; debone if wished. Stir reserved onion mixture into sauce and reduce over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until silky brown gravy forms, about 10 minutes. Add lime juice and saffron-kewra mixture. Stir meat in sauce to coat.