Recipe: How to make the perfect Durban lamb curry


Discover Chef Kevin Joseph's famous lamb curry recipe to try for yourself at home.


20th June 2013

Red Carnation Hotels

This recipe is brought to you by Executive Chef Kevin Jospeh at The Oyster Box.

No visit to Durban is complete without enjoying an authentic curry.

Curry was introduced to the Colony of Natal over 150 years ago by indentured laborers who came from India, to work in the sugar cane fields. The word ‘curry’ comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which means ‘sauce’. The unique flavours of Indian cooking, which were embraced by British settlers and the Zulus, have been developed over time to make the ‘Durban curry’, famous around the world.

Durban curries, which are usually hotter, are coloured red with tomatoes, chilies and cayenne pepper. Expert curry makers from Durban boast that a typical Durban Masala curry powder has about 12 different ingredients in the blend. These include ground coriander, cinnamon, cumin, curry leaves, fennel seed, dried chilies and cayenne pepper, as well as ginger and garlic. The array of tasty Durban curries encompass many glorious dishes made from chicken, prawns, fish, beef and vegetables, but the most popular choice is lamb or mutton.

A typical Durban curry is made in a heavy pan. Onions are browned in oil, and then curry powder is added, followed by the garlic and ginger. This mixture is simmered before the lamb, chicken, beef or fish is folded in and then all the remaining ingredients are added. The pan is covered and the dish is left to simmer, bringing all the flavours together. Coriander is added just before serving. Durban curry is usually served over rice, with condiments such as chutney, sambals and papadums. 

If you're Vegetarian, you can substitute the meat with vegetables of your choice including cauliflower, cubed butternut, sweet potato, lentils and courgettes.


Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 4 people

  • 1kg leg of lamb or shoulder (or 1 kg chicken), cubed
  • 75ml oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (10 cm long)
  • 20ml medium strength masala curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10ml crushed garlic and ginger
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 5ml whole fennel seeds
  • 250ml water (one cup)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 medium tomato, skinned and diced
  • Coriander (dhania) leaves for garnishing


  1. Heat your oil and add the diced onion, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
  2. Add the masala powder mix, stir and add meat to the pot.
  3. Add salt, garlic and ginger, curry leaves and fennel seeds. Stir all ingredients together.
  4. Allow to cook on a high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
  5. As excess water and juices evaporate, add the additional cup of water, followed by the potato and tomato.
  6. When both the meat and the vegetables are cooked (approximately 30 minutes), simmer on high heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, roti and green salad.  

Masala mix (100g)

Kevin’s curry powder mix is a carefully guarded secret but we can share what goes in it with you. As for the measurements - only Kevin knows!

  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Fennel
  • Turmeric
  • Mild Masala
  • Aniseed
  • Cinnamon
  • Medium Masala
  • Cardamom

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