Wednesday 20 April 2011

Minty lamb with herbs and black pepper and carrot and pea curry

I love cooking with other people because you always learn something new, even when the person cooking with you feels like they have nothing to teach you. That down there is a picture of a couple of curries myself and my cooking-partner, Dan, made before the "detox". It's in inverted commas now due to the bottle of rose wine I had on Saturday and the fact that ate half a chocolate bunny in one sitting yesterday - I was only meant to nibble on an ear, but things got out of hand - anyway, back to the curries: the pea and carrot one is similar to a Polish dish my mum makes - the similarity between  cuisines from such different parts of the world never ceases to amaze me. The other one is a really fresh- tasting lamb curry with mint and coriander - and it's something really quite special. Both of them are from "50 Great Curries of India" by Camelia Panjabi

Lamb with herbs and black pepper
(serves 6)

2 cups coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
About 20 cashews (unroasted)
6 green chillies
Pinch of mustard powder or 1/2 mustard
4 tblsp oil
1.5cm broken cinnamon stick
4 green cardamon pods
3 cloves
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
2.5 x 1.5cm peeled ginger, chopped
1kg bones stewing lamb, cubed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp cumin powder
100ml yoghurt, whipped
1 tblsp lime or lemon juice
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala

I know, I know, I just had to write that list so I do realize how long it is, but believe me the recipe couldn't be easier. We blended the fresh mint, coconut and coriander with the nuts, chillies, mustard and a bit of water to a fine paste in the food processor. Then you heat the oil in a frying pan, and add the cinnamon, cardamon and cloves. After 1min add the onions and saute until they're turning brown, before adding the garlic, ginger and lamb. Turn the heat up and saute for 5min. Add the all the spices apart from the garam masala (turmeric, cumin and coriander) and fry for few more minutes. Make sure all the lamb is well-coated, then turn the heat down again and add the yoghurt really slowly, stirring all the time - two people at this point make the job easier, because one can stir continuously while the other one pours. If you are cooking on your own, then take care, maybe even take it off the heat for this bit, because you don't want it to curdle. Now, the green paste and a bit of water go in - it says 400ml, but I just follow my instincts with these things rather than being too precise. Bring it to the boil, then turn it right down and allow to simmer for about 45min. Just before serving, check the seasoning, add the lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and the garam masala powder

Peas with carrots and cumin
(serves 2)

3 tblsp oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 green chilli finely chopped
1 garlic clove
1cm x 1cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 chilli powder
1/2 cumin seeds
1 tomato, chopped
150g peas
2 carrots, diced

Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion until it turns brown (about 25min), then add the chilli, garlic and ginger. Saute for 3min, before adding all the spices. After a couple of minutes add some water (aprox 3 tblsp) and cook for a further 3min. Then the tomato for a couple of minutes, and finally the carrots, peas and salt. Cover and cook until tender - just keep tasting the carrots basically, and when they are soft enough for you, it's ready

Both these curries were great in their own right, but we decided that they are not necessarily meant to be eaten together. In fact, probably not. It's not that they tasted odd together, but they did nothing to compliment one another. One was simple, nice and undeniably good for you (if it was a person, it would be the girl-next-door type), the other one - probably not that great for you, but when something is that tasty, you just don't care: everything else pales by comparison and you think about it for days afterwards. It's unusual, complex, deep and rich - an undiscovered star of the curry world!

Going back for a second to learning things from people through cooking - what I learnt during this session is that I need to slice my onions way more finely than I had ever bothered to - it makes a massive difference to the taste of the curry. I will sharpen my knives and not be so lazy about this in the future, and if you haven't been doing so already I beg you to do the same. They should be as translucent as you can get them, you won't go back i promise you...

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