Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ashook's Lamb Curry with Sambele

Mmm, my third evening of instruction in the school of curry turned out deliciously, as you can see. Ashook approached me yesterday and said, "Come, we will make a nice curry tonight." And we went to the Gables, one of the higher-end grocery stores here in Swaziland, and he picked out a package of lamb riblets and legs and a box of curry powder. I first had to talk him down from the "extra spicy" to the "hot" curry powder, and I am lucky that I looked at the side of the package of the first one he wanted to buy. It had "wheat cereal (gluten)" very clearly labeled on the side of it, and Ashook looked a little shocked when he saw it. We came back to the guest house and he immediately began assembling ingredients, telling Thomas to chop onions while he searched for oil, ordering potatoes peeled and the lamb chopped as he measured spices and dumped them into the pot. The thing I'm learning about curries is that that really just need time. It doesn't take too long to get everything into the pot that needs to be there, but you must give all of the ingredients time to simmer and blend with each other, to mingle, get to know each other, before you try to take them back out of the pot and onto a plate. So we added onions, chili powder and curry powder, lamb and potatoes, and curry leaves and cilantro and just put the lid on and waited. We waited for over an hour until the sauce had turned into just a thick enough, and lamb and potatoes were tender. So if you are a novice cook, don't worry - this recipe is simple enough. The main ingredient is patience.

Ashook's Lamb Curry

3 - 6 tbsp. oil (we used olive oil, but vegetable or palm oil work fine, too)
2 onions, cut into long slivers
2 tbsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. chili powder (more to taste)
3 - 5 tbsp. hot curry powder
4 cloves garlic
1 piece ginger
1 kg. chopped lamb riblets and leg pieces
3 - 4 cups of water, divided
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large tomato, diced small
2 stalks of curry leaves
5 - 8 stalks of cilantro/coriander leaves

Heat the pot and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the 2 sliced onions and stir, cooking for about 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in 2 heaping teaspoons of turmeric and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of chili powder and 3 - 5 heaping tablespoons of hot curry powder. Stir to mix well and continue to cook. Meanwhile, mash up 4 cloves of garlic and one piece of ginger into a paste, then add about 1/2 cup of water and stir to mix. Add the garlic - ginger mixture to the pot, and then stir in the chopped lamb. Add about 1.5 - 2 more cups of water, enough to cover the lamb, stir well, and add about 1 tablespoon of salt (more to taste later, if desired). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes.

When it has simmered for about 20 minutes, add the quartered potatoes with another 1.5 - 2 cups of water. Stir in the diced tomato as well, and then bring back to a boil. When it is boiling, place the whole stalks of curry leaves and cilantro on top of the curry, but do not stir in. Replace the lid and let it simmer for another 45 minutes - 1 hour. Stir it every 10 minutes or so, and after about 45 minutes, check to see if the lamb is tender enough and the potatoes are done. Continue to simmer until it is the consistency you desire, and then serve with Ashook's Sambele and rice or bread.

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