Mark Diacono's Sirka Gosht

Many of you will be cooking more than ever at home. Applying acidity will elevate the simplest of dishes. And perhaps you'll go one further and start experimenting with fermentation and preserving.

We would thoroughly recommend Mark Diacono's book, SOUR, to guide you.

In short, Mark says on vinegar: try it on everything, quality is important, apply with thought and care.

The following recipe calls for 100ml of malt vinegar. While we suggest using our range of Orkney Craft Vinegar as a 'finishing vinegar' – due to its softness, roundedness and complex depth of flavours – either the Bere Malt Vinegar or Highland Park Malt Vinegar would make this a very special meal.

When British lamb comes into season and is at its best in the summer, give it the treatment it deserves. In the meantime, hogget or mutton is a great option.


Having spent the first 13 years of his life in Sri Lanka, my dad had a healthy fondness for spicy food that was sadly unmatched by culinary inquisitiveness. I now suspect life’s disappointments made him lean towards the familiar: we ate the same blindingly hot curry often. In fairness, it banished any potential colds that might be lurking and flushed the tear ducts effectively. Were he alive, I would make this curry for us all to eat together; I have a feeling he would have liked it, lively as it is and with malt vinegar (his favourite vinegar) at its heart. And eating with his granddaughter across the table might have eased those disappointments a little too.

This is hugely rich, so go easy on the portions. It is fairly adaptable too, as long as you use some kind of vinegar (sirka) and lamb (gosht). Reduce the cooking time by an hour or so if using diced lamb.

Serves 4
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
100ml (3½fl oz) malt vinegar
half shoulder of lamb (about 800g/1lb 12 oz)
2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
2 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods
150ml (5fl oz) double cream
2 tsp garam masala
mint leaves and pomegranate seeds, to serve

In a blender, whizz the ginger, garlic, half the onion, cumin, chilli powder, salt and vinegar to a smooth sauce. Rub this into the lamb and leave for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight, to marinate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

In a good-sized heavy-based lidded casserole, fry the remaining onion in the ghee or vegetable oil for 10–15 minutes until soft, then add the whole spices and then the lamb. Add enough water to just cover the meat. Cover and place in the oven for 3–4 hours until the meat is completely tender.

Remove from the oven, and take the meat out of the liquid with a slotted spoon, putting it to one side on a plate and covering with foil. Place the pan over a high heat to bring up to a good simmer and reduce the sauce by about half, stirring often.

Add the cream and simmer for a further 10 minutes until the sauce is rich and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Check the seasoning and return the meat to the pan, along with any juices on the plate. Warm through, then sprinkle over the garam masala and top with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. Serve with rice and/or flatbreads.

Credit: SOUR by Mark Diacono (Quadrille, Hardback & eBook)


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