From Susan: To paraphrase the old chestnut about lemons and life – What do you do when life gives you lamb? You make lamb curry.
We hosted a dinner party on Friday night, bringing together Ted’s best friend, William, who moved to Maui five years ago, his wonderful girlfriend Mary and a group of our good friends here in Montclair. For the main course, Ted did two bone-in legs of lamb, studding them generously with garlic and rubbing them with herbs before grilling them on the charcoal grill. The result was delicious, but we had lots of meat left.
Sunday was rainy and chilly, following many days of sunny, warm drought it was a good day to stay inside, be grateful for the watery gift to the parched garden and cook something comforting. Thinking of lamb curry, I turned to my favorite “celebrity” chef, Jamie Oliver, and his book The Naked Chef Takes Off.
I had never made a curry “from scratch” before – I’d always used curry powder. But I had all the ingredients (except one, as you will see below), so I decided, as they say in England to “give it a go.” The process starts with a dry spice mixture, which you toast up in a saute pan on top of the stove, then blend with fresh ingredients – ginger, cilantro, red onion, red chilies and garlic – to make the base for the curry. This gets cooked (“fried” in Jamie’s recipe) in butter, combined with canned chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, and put in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. If you are using fresh meat, you brown that a bit first, then add it and vegetables to the curry sauce and cook for about another hour. Since I was using leftovers – lamb and a roasted medley of cauliflower, eggplant, yellow squash and onion – I stirred all that good stuff into the sauce, covered it, and let it sit over a low flame until everything was hot.
This curry had a depth of flavor unlike anything I’ve ever tasted – save for the curries I’ve enjoyed in London, of course! I’m sure if you use fresh meat that cooks in the sauce, the result is even more intense, but I’d make this again with leftover chicken, steak – anything really. It would make a terrific party dish too; add a green salad and as they say in England “Bob’s your uncle!” (That means, “and there you are.”)
Peter’s Lamb Curry
Adapted from “The Naked Chef Takes Off” by Jamie Oliver
2 tbsp. fennel seeds
2 tbsp. cumin seeds (I used ground cumin)
2 tbsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp. fenugreek seeds (This I did not have, so I have no idea how the flavor of the curry would have been affected.)
1/2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1/2 a cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
Lightly toast all ingredients in a pan over a gentle heat. Crush into a fine powder. ( I got out the mortar and pestle, thinking this would be and ideal time to put it to use, but found that crushing the mixture that way would have taken a half a day. So, I cleaned out my coffee grinder and gave it a whir in there – perfect!)
2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled
1 large red onion, peeled
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 fresh red chilies, with seeds (I used chilies from our garden and because I had no idea how hot they were, took out the seeds. Next time I’d leave ‘em in for a little more heat.)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Chop all the above ingredients roughly and put in a food processor with the dry spice powder. Process until well pureed.
The rest of the process
2 tbsp. butter
1- 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 cup stock or water
3 1/2 lbs. lamb meat, cut in cubes (see note above about leftovers lamb)
1 handful each chopped mint and cilantro
1 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325. In a large casserole, fry the curry paste mixture in butter until it goes golden (mine never did “go golden” – it ended up kind of a gray-brown after about 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.
Add the tomatoes and the stock or water. Bring to a boil, cover with foil and put in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and continue to simmer on the stove until it thickens.
If using fresh meat, brown in olive oil and add to sauce. Simmer for about an hour or until tender. If using leftovers, stir in and heat until hot. Stir in the yogurt and serve sprinkled with cilantro and mint. Jamie also recommends a squeeze of lime juice.
Jamie also suggests adding any of the following: Swiss chard, spinach, peas, cauliflower, fried eggplant, okra, boiled potatoes, chickpeas, lentils.