Disclaimer: This recipe is made possible by The American Lamb Board. All opinions expressed are solely my own.
One of the most popular requests I receive is for Indian recipes, and this week, I’ve got a wonderful yet simple recipe for lamb that’s rich in history and comes from the kitchens of the Moghul Empire of India. We’re making lamb do-piaza!
This is an elegant yet simple way to cook lamb. Lamb do-piaza (sometimes also written as do-pyaza) involves braising onions and lamb slowly over low heat until the onions turn brown and fall apart and the meat turns tender. The words do-piaza or do-pyaza are translated to “twice the onions” and refer to the use of a large number of onions and the addition of the onions at two stages of cooking. This recipe originated from the kitchens of the Moghul Empire in India and was used to prepare goat, but American Lamb works just as well in this recipe, and this is how I make this dish at home. The key is to use good quality lean lamb and plenty of good options available at your butcher, from grass to grain-fed.
In lamb do-piaza, the onions are added at two points during cooking – first – the onions are browned, and then second, along with the water. Because of these two different methods, the onions produce different flavors. The first set of onions browned gives an aromatic bittersweet flavor due to the cooking of their sugars; during the second set of onions, sweetness the sauce.
I start with a lean cut of a boneless shoulder of lamb and trim off any fat using a sharp knife. The meat is then diced into cubes before it goes into the pot. The lamb is first browned to develop its flavors and then braised slowly until it turns extremely tender. After about an hour or more, the braised lamb turns wonderfully aromatic and owes its fragrance to the combination of slowly cooked onions, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Your kitchen will smell equally lovely. The sauce should be thick and coat the meat well. Garnish the lamb with thin slices of onion rings. Cilantro could be used for the splash of green, but I have lovely spring onions here; they act as a bright verdant nod to the onions that created the sauce for this dish. Lamb do-piaza is best eaten over hot steamed rice (preferably basmati) or with flatbread like naan or parathas.Print
2 lb/910 g large or extra-large onions
¼ cup/60 ml ghee, extra-virgin olive oil, or neutral oil such as grapeseed
2 lb/910 g boneless shoulder of American Lamb, excess fat trimmed and discarded, cut into 2 inch/5 cm cubes
10 garlic cloves, grated
3 Tbsp/40 g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
½ tsp ground green cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground Kashmiri chilli powder or (¾ tsp smoked sweet paprika + ¼ tsp ground cayenne)
1 ½ cups/360 ml water
Fine sea salt
2 scallions, trimmed, both white and green parts thinly sliced
- Dice 1 ¾ quantity of the onions and the remaining ¼ slice thinly into rings. Reserve the onion rings for the garnish.
- Heat the ghee in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat (a stockpot will also work). Add the ¾ quantity of the diced onions, cover with a lid, and cook until they turn golden brown. Stir occasionally to prevent burning; if they start to stick, reduce the heat and add 1 to 2 Tbsp of water. The amount of time taken for the onions to brown will vary considerably. Don’t worry about getting the onions too dark; they will continue to cook and turn brown as the dish cooks. Add the lamb and continue to sauté until it turns brown 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and chilli powder and sauté until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the water, the remaining ¼ quantity of the diced onions, and ½ tsp salt. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, loosely cover with a lid and cook until the lamb is completely tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The onions should transform into a very thick sauce. If it is too runny, simmer uncovered until the liquid reduces in volume, and stir often to avoid burning. Taste and season with salt.
- Garnish with the onion rings and cilantro and serve hot or warm with plain rice or flatbread such as roti, naan, or paratha.
- Browning the onions not only helps bring out the sweetness from the onions, but it also kicks off the caramelization and Maillard food reactions that give bittersweet flavors and aromas to the lamb.
- I don’t like to brown the onions all the way until they are very dark. Instead, I find that a lighter shade of golden brown is much better as the onions will brown even deeper as they continue to cook.
- The scallion is optional, but what is a dish without the touch of fresh, bright verdant herbs.
- I’ve suggested the optional finishing touch of saffron, I don’t always do that, and it depends on my mood. I prefer to reserve saffron for a celebratory event.
- The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145F/63C for lamb, followed by 3-minute rest. However, in this recipe, the lamb is cooked for a long time till it falls apart, so I do not measure the internal temperature.
Steep 10 to 15 threads of saffron in 2 Tbsp boiling water and pour this over the dish when ready to serve.