Chef's Recipes

Avani’s lamb curry

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for Avani’s lamb curry by Tonka restaurant in Melbourne.

  • 1 hr preparation
  • 2 hrs 30 mins cooking plus marinating
  • Serves 6 - 8
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Avani’s lamb curry
"Melt-in-the-mouth chunks of lamb in a fragrant sauce... fresh spices are a must," says D'Sylva. You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead to marinate the lamb.


  • 14 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 kg boneless lamb neck forequarter, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • 140 ml vegetable oil
  • 4 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp white poppy seeds (see note)
  • 1½ tbsp each white sesame seeds and black cumin seeds (see note)
  • 1 tbsp each cumin seeds and coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • Seeds from 2 black cardamom pods
  • 6 star anise
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 100 gm coarsely grated fresh coconut (1 cup)
  • 1 piece of cassia bark
  • 1 tbsp each chilli powder and sweet paprika
  • 1 litre chicken stock (4 cups)
  • To serve: coconut cream and coriander leaves
  • To serve: steamed basmati rice and naan bread (optional)


  • 1
    Pound 4 garlic cloves and ginger with a mortar and pestle to a smooth paste (adding a little water to loosen if necessary), then combine with lamb and yoghurt in a non-reactive container, season to taste and mix well. Cover and refrigerate to marinate (overnight).
  • 2
    Heat 80ml oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and stir occasionally until caramelised (10-12 minutes). Set aside.
  • 3
    Dry-roast the seeds, cloves, cardamom, 4 star anise and 3 bay leaves until fragrant (3-4 minutes). Transfer to a blender, add reserved onion, coconut and remaining garlic and process to a smooth paste, then set aside.
  • 4
    Heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add lamb in batches and turn occasionally until browned all over (3-5 minutes), then set aside. Add cassia bark, remaining star anise and remaining bay leaves to pan, stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds), then add the spice paste and stir-fry until oil splits out (3-5 minutes). Add chilli powder and paprika and stir, then add lamb and stock, bring to the simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb is very tender and sauce is thick (2-2¼ hours). Season to taste with sea salt, drizzle with coconut cream, scatter coriander over, then serve hot with steamed basmati rice and naan bread.


Note White poppy seeds and black cumin seeds (or nigella seeds) are available from Indian grocers and Herbies Spices.
Drink Suggestion: Raspail-Ay Gigondas Grenache 2010 Southern Rhone, or Massolino Barolo Nebbiolo 2008 Piedmont. Drink suggestion by Travis Howe