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Railway Lamb Curry

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Railway lamb curry is a lot like a traditional British stew.

The original railway lamb curry (actually made with mutton) was served in the first class cars of the Indian railways and stems back to the British Raj.

The story goes that a British officer ordered a curry, found it to be too spicy and asked for the curry to be milder.

The chef added some yoghurt and coconut milk to the sauce to cool it down and the officer loved it. Railway lamb curry was born.

Railway lamb curry

If you enjoy a good lamb curry, try this railway lamb curry!

How railway lamb curry evolved…

Over time, railway lamb curry became much milder with only a little chilli powder added. You could always add more to taste.

Most of our curry house style curries were developed here in the UK for the British palate. This famous curry was developed for the British as well but most definitely has its origin in India.

It’s similar to a 

When I cook railway lamb curry at home, I do it slightly differently to this method. I simmer the meat (usually a lot more of it) separately for about an hour until tender.

Then I add the amount of cooked meat required and some of the cooking stock to the curry to finish. I do this because I cook a lot of lamb curries so it is great to have pre-cooked meat and stock available for when I need it.

Both the stock and cooked meat freeze really well.

The cooked meat and stock can then be used in lamb curries from mild to fiery hot.

Railway lamb curry

Heat the oil and add the aromatics.

Railway lamb curry

Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for about 30 seconds.

Railway lamb curry

Add the onions and fry until soft and translucent. Then add the spices.

Railway lamb curry

In goes the meat. Add just enough water to cover and simmer until tender.

Railway lamb curry

Stir in the chopped tomatoes.

Railway lamb curry

Add the cubed potatoes. Simmer in the stock until tender.

Railway lamb curry

Add the tamarind and then taste. Add more if you prefer.


Railway lamb curry

Cool the curry down with some coconut milk. Some people also add a little yoghurt.

Railway lamb curry

The curry can be thin or thick. You decide and then simmer down to your preferred consistency.

Railway lamb curry

All done! Delicious. Enjoy.

By the way, rice is delicious with this curry but I like naans even better. Dip those naans into the hot railway lamb curry and you will be in curry heaven. Here’s my curry house style stovetop naan recipe

Authentic Railway Lamb (Mutton) Curry

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) lamb or mutton shoulder or leg cut into bite sized pieces on the bone
  • 5 tbsp (1/4 cup) mustard oil
  • 5 cardamom pods – bruised
  • 3 dried Kashmiri chillies
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 2 medium red onions – finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ginger and garlic paste
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 300g chopped tomatoes
  • 3 green chillies – finely chopped
  • 3 potatoes – peeled and quartered
  • 1 generous tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 200ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat the mustard oil in a large saucepan. When visibly hot, add the cardamom pods, Kashmiri chillies, cloves and cinnamon stick and let these whole spices infuse into the oil for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the curry leaves and let them fry with the spices for another 30 seconds before adding the chopped onions.
  3. Fry the onions for about five minutes until soft and translucent and the stir in the garlic and ginger paste and continue frying for a further 30 seconds.
  4. Now add the ground spices and chopped tomatoes, stir well and add the chopped chillies. This is your base for the curry.
  5. Stir in the cubed meat and add just enough water to cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until fork tender.
  6. When your meat is almost cooked to perfection, add the potatoes to the simmering meat and cook them with the meat until they are tender.
  7. This curry can be either really soupy or thick, depending on what you prefer. So reduce the stock down until you are happy.
  8. Stir in the tamarind concentrate and coconut milk. You’re almost done now.
  9. To finish, add the kasoori methi by rubbing it between your fingers into the sauce. Season with salt to taste and garnish with some chopped coriander if you like.

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I hope you enjoy this railway lamb curry recipe. I sure do. If you do give it a try, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.


Monday 18th of April 2022

Hello Dan. Just a point about mustard oil. There are possible consequences of using this as it contains elements which may cause poisoning at worst and stomach disorders less seriously. It should be heated to smoking and then be allowed to cool before using normally. Some brands even have a warning that it is for external use only.

Even though I have a tandoor, I still make my naans by your stove-top method. Here in France it is not easy to find spices at a reasonable price, especially since brexit but there are several Indian-owned providers in Germany of all places.

Tony Heath

Dan Toombs

Monday 18th of April 2022

Totally up to you if you choose to use mustard oil or not. Just use rapeseed oil instead. Thanks Dan

Alan M

Friday 4th of June 2021

I have made this four times now. It’s a great original curry, which always attracts comments.

The third and fourth time I made it with beef. To my taste beef works better, although in India I understand that might not work!

We grow fresh curry leaf in the garden, which needs to be cooked a bit longer. Actually better when the curry leaves have been frozen.

Your book is great by the way. Highly recommended!


Dan Toombs

Friday 4th of June 2021

Thanks very much for your lovely comments, all great to hear. Sounds good with beef, I will have to give that a go. Kind regards Dan

Samantha Wheeler

Thursday 3rd of June 2021

Cooked this dish a few times now a family favourite, would like to share with friends now lockdown has eased. Can you let me know how many the recipe serves as i need to feed 8 people please.

Dan Toombs

Friday 4th of June 2021

The recipe feeds four people so you would need to double it. Thanks very much. Dan


Saturday 7th of March 2020

Absolutely beautiful wonderful and delicious in taste

Dan Toombs

Friday 13th of March 2020

Thank you very much Kieran.


Khushrow Mistry

Thursday 5th of March 2020

Hi, Looks yummy. I will surely make it. Thanks. Only question - how long do you cook once tamarind and coconut milk is added ?

Dan Toombs

Friday 6th of March 2020

Thank you Khushrow. I usually just add both at the end. They don't need to cook long but longer cooking times won't hurt either. :-) Please note that coconut milk can separate though if cooked too long on a high temp.


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