Grandma and the family once toured southern India and she was astonished how her perception of the heat generated by chili pepper changed. After three weeks, what had been a curry of searing force seemed merely a pleasant tingle. She was relieved to find that her tastes returned to normal after a week or two back home. Like all curries, the flavor of this one mellows if it is stored 1-2 days in the refrigerator before reheating for serving with boiled rice and accompaniments such as poppadoms, naan bread, yogurt raita and a chutney or two.
2 pounds/900 g boneless leg or lean shoulder of lamb, cut in 1½-inch/4-cm cubes
1/3 cup/75 ml vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red chili pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup/250 ml canned coconut milk
1½ cups/400 g canned coarsely chopped tomatoes
1. Heat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF. Trim the lamb of any sinew and fat; cut the meat in 2-inch/5-cm cubes. In a medium casserole, heat half the oil and sauté the cubes of lamb, a few at a time, until browned on all sides. Take them out, add the onions and cook slowly until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the remaining oil and stir in the coriander, cumin, chili pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook very slowly, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Do not let the spices burn.
2. Add coconut milk to the pan with the salt. Replace the meat, stir to mix, cover the casserole and bring to a boil. Simmer in the heated oven until the meat is tender, 1½-2 hours. Stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking 10 minutes longer. Taste the sauce for seasoning, adding more salt or red chili pepper if liked. Let cool, then store the curry in the refrigerator for at 1-2 days for the flavors to mellow.
3. To serve: Reheat the lamb in a moderate oven (350˚F/177˚C), allowing 25-30 minutes for the smaller casseroles or 45-50 minutes for the large one, or reheat gently on top of the stove, stirring often, until very hot. Serve the curry in the casserole.