Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lamb Curry

This recipe might look a bit intimidating given its length but I encourage you to give it a try. It really is quite easy once you get past some of the chopping and prep work. Also, this curry was very well received by George & Carrie, my chief taste-testers, so that might give you the extra bit of incentive you need to tackle this recipe.

This recipe is from The Soul Of A New Cuisine: A Discovery Of The Foods And Flavors Of Africa which I've never cooked from. The author, Marcus Samuelsson, runs a couple of very well known NYC restaurants. When you hear the name Samuelsson, you might imagine a Swede and, in this case, you're half right. Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, orphaned at the age of 3 and moved to Sweden shortly thereafter. His adopted Swedish parents raised him in a typically Scandinavian skating and all of that. He returned to Ethiopia when he was 28 years old and wrote this cookbook as a tribute to his native continent. In doing research, he discovered that relatively little had been written about African cuisine and he took it upon himself to change that. The fruit of his labor is a really neat book which is enlightening from an ethnographic perspective. I like to read books which focus on how people relate to food and this book sates my curiosity. It also satisfies my hunger so let's get to the recipe!

Keep in mind that my pictures reflect a double batch.


For the spiced butter:
1 pound unsalted butter
1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 basil leaves

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat, stirring frequently. As foam rises to the top, skim and discard it. Continue cooking, without letting the butter brown, until no more foam appears. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, let stand for the spices to settle. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve before using.

1/2 cup Spiced Butter (or 1 stick unsalted butter)
2 medium red onions, sliced
two 3-inch pieces ginger, peeled and grated
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Thai chiles, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (if you can't find these, just substitute...say, 4 seeded and de-ribbed serrano chiles)
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
4 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron (I omitted the saffron...BUDGET college cook and all)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes (i used lamb neck...cheaper and more flavorful...)
6 tomatoes, chopped, or 3 cups chopped canned tomatoes
1 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk...I figured with the butter and lamb fat, the dish would be rich enough)
4 cups water
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes (1.5 pounds total), peeled and cut in half
2 cups 2-inch pieces okra
1 cup plain yogurt

(Man. Some little bastard just threw an empty Gatorade bottle through the open, front windows of my apartment. Ughh. Stupid disrespectful bastard kid.)

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in the onions, ginger, garlic and chiles and saute until the onions are transluscent, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika, coriander, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, saffron, turmeric and peppercorns and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the lamb and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, fro 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and 2 cups of the water and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours. (At this point, I added salt.)

Add the remaining 2 cups of water and simmer, uncovered for 40 minutes. (I didn't understand this part. Why not just add all four cups of water at the same time? Does this make sense to anyone?) Add the potatoes, cover, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 40 minutes longer. (I tasted for salt and adjusted accordingly.)

Add the okra and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat, remove the bay leaves, and stir in the yogurt. (I actually took my yogurt and blended it up with a bit of the hot cooking liquid. I find that when I add yogurt directly to a hot pot of food, I get these little yogurt pebbles...It looks kinda gross. So, to avoid this problem, I take some hot cooking liquid and temper the yogurt with it. The easy way is to just blend it in a blender....maybe a 2:1 ratio of yogurt to hot liquid.)

Re-taste for seasoning.


Pretty good recipe although there was a self-inflicted problem. The choice of lamb has fantastic flavor, texture and is very affordable but the amount of marbling in the meat means that there is quite a bit of fat released during cooking. I chose to skim off some of the fat. Normally, this isn't a problem but there is no way to segregate the spiced butter from the lamb fat so, by removing lamb fat, I also removed some spiced butter. This is unfortunate because the spiced butter has such a neat flavor. Next time, I might use a leaner cut of lamb...maybe well trimmed lamb shoulder? Something to keep an eye on but if you use the leg of lamb, as the recipe requests, you should be all right.

This recipe does nothing but encourage me to use this book sometime in the near future.

Time- 40 minutes of prep. This includes making the spiced butter. Actual cooking time is a few hours but it's just inactive simmering. No real work.

Cost- (For my double batch)
Lamb- 4 lb. at $2.99/lb= $12.00
Butter- $2.00 (Not really sure...George bought the butter)
Tomatoes- $3.00
Coconut Milk- $0.89
Potatoes- $2.75
Incidentals- $3.00
Total-$26.64--Double batch serves 12-16 so $2.18-$1.66 per serving.



BLISS said...

Nice..have to try this one,there is lamb curry simmering in my slow cooker as I type this comment..... will make it this way nxt time. Thanks for the info on lamb neck,I am using that for the first time today and was so worried that it might ruin the precious curry.....:)

Mike Czyzewski said...

naw, lamb neck is delicious. very underutilized. thanks for reading!