Monday, February 18, 2013

Lamb Curry With Carrot Raita

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 To anyone wanting to explore the spicy world of curries, this recipe is a good start.

Not all curries are created equal,  something  I have learned from substantial research and hit and misses.  They come in a huge variety of styles, from delicately spiced to hot and fiery.  From mild and creamy to intensely aromatic.  Even in India the curries are quite different depending on the region the recipe comes from.  Curries also come from South East Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  The word curry from Kari means sauce.  The curry powder that comes in a bottle is simply a mix of spices,  an idea originating in the 18th Century by Indian merchants  for sale to members of the British Colonial Government and those returning to England.  Since each type of curry uses a different mix of spices, you are always better making the blend at home. Wikipedia has an excellent page on curry which can be accessed here

Contrary to what you might think, authentic curries are easy to prepare and make a wonderful main dish for a dinner party, particularly if you plan to serve  buffet style.

The following recipe appeared about a year ago in the New York Times and got my attention right away.  Now I am not an expert in curries though I've had a few from my days of business travel to that part of the world.   What I liked about it was the simplicity and the spice mix, although I added some of the things I used  in another recipe very similar to this one, including the tomato paste, as well as  the coconut milk and the herbs at the end.  This is really a mish mash on my part as coconut milk is only typical of Indian curries from the coast and not from the northern region from which this curry seems to originate. If you want to see the original recipe go here.

My daughter who hates the word curry  liked it to the point that she is brown bagging the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.  That's as good an endorsement as any.

Please, don't take shortcuts and take the time to toast the spices before you grind them.  This is what gives this dish the flavor and aroma it deserves.  Also, don't skip the raita,  It is a wonderful condiment for this curry.  Given a choice, I would skip the rice and accompany both with Indian or Pita bread, lightly toasted.

Raita is an Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi condiment made with yogurt and used as a sauce or dip. The yogurt may be seasoned with coriander (cilantro),cumin, mint, cayenne pepper, and other herbs and spices.

Yield: 4 Servings:



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
1 TB tomato paste *
1 TB  chopped fresh mint*
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro*
3 TB coconut milk (optional)*

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, *(here I added a TB tomato paste) 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. Add the optional coconut milk here and stir to blend. Cook for a couple of minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste.(You can add the coconut milk here if using) Raise the heat and let the sauce reduce a bit, if desired. (May be prepared ahead to this point and reheated before serving.)Chop and add the extra herbs right 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.

Recipe adapted from the New York Times and The Curry Cookbook
Photos Lindaraxa

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