Slow-Cooked Lamb Bhuna - a hot curry, made by frying spices gently, before adding the meat, tomatoes and stock and then letting it simmer away in the oven until tender. It's served in a lusciously thick sauce that clings to the meat.
If you or someone in your family isn't keen on the heat you can leave out the dried and fresh chillies for a milder dish that's still super rich and tasty.
The word 'Bhuna' refers to the cooking method of this dish, and means 'to fry' or 'fried'. Usually the spices are fried gently, before adding the meat.
Originating in Bengal, Bhuna is a hot curry, and it doesn’t come swimming in sauce. It’s usually a thick sauce, with just enough to cling to the meat.
My recipe has a little stock in there, so there is a bit of a sauce, but it's still thick and rich.
Bhuna is very popular in the UK, and the heat level of this curry varies a lot in different British-Indian restaurants. I've had bhuna with barely any heat at all, and some that were very hot.
Mine is a medium-hot version, so pretty hot, but not so hot that you can't taste the flavours.
- If you prefer it to have no heat, then leave out the dried and fresh chillies.
- If you like a little heat, reduce the chillies to ¼ tsp of dried chilli flakes and one or two whole green Birds Eye chillies (don't chop them up - most of the heat is in the seeds).
📋 What do we need?
*Tomato puree is in the recipe but we forgot to include it in the phot of the ingredients. Ooopps 🤫
🔪 Watch how to make it
***Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.***
- First we fry up the non-powder spices - cumin seeds, cinnamon and cardamom pods in a little ghee, before adding onion, garlic and ginger and letting the soften in the pan.
- Then we build up the heat and spices with chillies, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cloves plus some salt and pepper.
- Now we add in the lamb to seal the meat and coat it in the spices. Once it's sealed, add in chopped tomatoes, chopped pepper, tomato puree (tomato paste if you're in the US) and stock. Bring it all to the boil, then place a lid on and place it in the oven for around 90 minutes, until the lamb is lovely and tender.
👩🍳PRO TIP Depending on your cut of lamb, you may need to cook it a little longer.
I usually use chunks of lamb shoulder, leg or neck. Cuts with more connective tissue and fat take longer to cook, as it takes a while for the tissue and fat to break down.
I find the order or toughness (toughest to least tough) it usually goes neck, then shoulder, then leg.
If you're not sure, go with 90 minutes cooking in the oven. Check the meat. If it's easy to pull apart, it's done. If it's not that tender, give it another 20-30 minutes. It shouldn't take more than 2 hours cooking in the oven to get it lovely and tender.
Yes, once you bring the curry to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer it very gently with the lid on for 75-90 minutes, until the lamb is tender. Check the lamb and give it a stir a few times during cooking to ensure it doesn't catch.
Yes! The sauce won't thicken up as much, but you can cook it in the slow cooker. Cook up to the point you bring the curry to the boil, then place in the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low.
If you want to thicken the sauce more, stir in a little cornstarch slurry at the end (2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 6 tbsp of cold water).
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Lamb Bhuna Recipe
- 2 tbsp ghee - or oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 large or 2 medium onions - peeled and chopped into thick chunks
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 6 green birds eye chillies - 2 finely chopped, 4 left whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- pinch ground cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 kg (2.2 lbs) lamb - chopped into 1-inch chunks (use shoulder, leg or neck)
- 1 red bell pepper - chopped into large chunks
- 6 medium tomatoes - roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp tomato puree - paste for US
- 360 ml (1 ½ cups) lamb or chicken stock
- chopped coriander - cilantro
- boiled or pilau rice
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F (fan).
- Heat the ghee over a medium heat in a large oven-proof pan.2 tbsp ghee
- Add the cumin seeds, cinnamon, and cardamom. Fry for 2-3 minutes, until the spices release their fragrance.1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cardamom pods
- Add the chopped onion, garlic, and ginger and fry, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until the onion is softened and lightly browned.1 large or 2 medium onions, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp minced ginger
- Add the green chillies, bay leaves, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, cloves, salt, and pepper.6 green birds eye chillies, 2 bay leaves, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, pinch ground cloves, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper
- Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the lamb and stir to coat in the spices. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until sealed.1 kg (2.2 lbs) lamb
- Add in the chopped red pepper, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, and stock.1 red bell pepper, 6 medium tomatoes, 3 tbsp tomato puree, 360 ml (1 ½ cups) lamb or chicken stock
- Stir together and bring to the boil.
- Cover the pan and place in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes - until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened. Check on it a couple of times in the last 30 minutes or so so ensure the liquid isn't running dry. Top up with a splash of boiling water if it is.
- Remove from the oven and serve topped with fresh coriander.chopped coriander
- I like to serve mine with boiled or pilau rice, chapati and raitha.boiled or pilau rice, chapati, raita
Reheat in a pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until piping hot throughout.
Or reheat in the oven (170C/325F) with the lid on, for around 30 minutes, until piping hot throughout.
You may need to add a splash of water or stock to loosen up the curry when reheating. Can I freeze it? Yes, make the curry, then cool, cover and freeze.
Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat as per the make-ahead instructions above. Nutritional information is approximate, based on 4 servings (not including serving suggestions of rice, chapati, raita etc).
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