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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is Curry Ever Simple?

When I think of curry, I do not think of simple.  What I think of is a lot of chopping, and a ton of ingredients, most of which I don't have in the house and that once I buy them I'll never use again.  That is, unless I make another curry dish.

So when I think of curry, I think of a whole lot of effort.

But I do love curry dishes.  I love the subtlety of the spices and in my mind, anything that's served over a mound of rice is a sure winner.  Nonetheless, curry is usually something I enjoy in the comfort of a restaurant where someone else can do all the leg work.

But I'm a trooper so when I saw this recipe in The New York Times yesterday, I figured I'd give it a try.  This decision was aided by the fact that with the exception of the lamb, the mint, and the black mustard seed, I had most everything I needed to make this already in the house.  Score one for my well stocked pantry!

Despite being called Simple Lamb Curry, to say this was simple would be an overstatement.  But it wasn't hard.  What it was was time consuming but that's not a big deal.  Fortunately, I read through the instructions before I started making it so I knew that the lamb had to marinate.  Don't laugh.  More than once I've gone into the kitchen at 6:00 p.m. to make dinner only to realize that what I was planning to make required overnight marinating.  Once the lamb is marinated, it simmers for about an hour on the stove so make sure to leave yourself enough time.
Marinate the meat overnight/
The really nice thing about this dish, aside from how delicious it is, is that your house will smell heavenly.  All those toasted spices add not only a unique flavor to the curry, they're better an any kitchen candle you could ever purchase.
Put a dollop of raita on top of the curry.
So while this isn't a throw together quick dinner, it's well worth the effort because the end result is far from simple.

Recipe:  Simple Lamb Curry with Carrot Raita
(David Tanis, The New York Tines, February 22, 2012)


For the Lamb:

2 pounds lean lamb shoulder cut in 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons grated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
2 red onions, sliced thick, 1 pound
6 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 inch-long piece cinnamon stick

For the Raita:

1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrot
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon each chopped mint, chives and cilantro.


1. Put the lamb in a bowl with the ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes, or up to several hours refrigerated (even overnight is fine).

2. Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the seasoned meat. Lightly brown the meat and onions, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or so. Add the cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon stick, then add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and turn heat to gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour, or until the meat is fork-tender. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste. Raise the heat and let the sauce reduce a bit, if desired. (May be prepared ahead to this point and reheated before serving.)

3. To make the raita, put the yogurt in a bowl. Heat the ghee or oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cumin, let them pop a bit — be careful — then stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, till barely golden. Carefully stir the hot contents of the skillet into the yogurt. Add the grated carrot, cayenne and salt, to taste. Let the raita sit at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Just before serving, stir in the mint, chives and cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings.

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