15 September 2008

Lamb Masala

En français ici.
Ok, I know what you're thinking: You're putting a lamb dish in your folder for cheap recipes?? Cheap compared to what? Caviar? Let me explain. One of the important things to do when you adore food but don't have a huge budget is to look at what's a on sale, particularly in bulk. With meat, one of the ways it becomes affordable is when it's past or almost past its sell-by date. Here's where you have to carefully inspect the piece you're buying to make sure it's still good, and you need to go shopping on a day when you'll have some time to cook because you can't let it sit around!

This was the case last week at the supermarket with lamb. There were pounds and pounds of lamb about to be thrown away because the sell-by date was yesterday and they were selling them for cheap. I love lamb. Sooooo... I bought a bunch and spent the afternoon making a big pot of lamb masala, froze some and ate some during the week.

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite cookbooks, Mes recettes indiennes, written by a mother-daughter team (just like my adopters over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen!), in which traditional South-Indian recipes are adapted for occidental ingredients and schedules. Indian food can take some initial investment because there are a lot of spices to buy, but spices keep forever and you can use them to make lots of ordinary dishes taste amazing. I decided to invest in learning to cook Indian food when I realized I was spending all my money eating at Indian restaurants :-) Believe it or not, aside from the lamb, I had all the ingredients already on hand for this recipe!


1 kg lamb (they use shoulder cut -- how do you say that in English?)
3 large onions
2 medium-sized tomatoes
1 small piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch long)
2 garlic cloves
2-3 potatoes
5 Tbsp dried, grated coconut
3 cardamom pods
a pinch cinnamon
5 cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground clove)
a pinch cumin
a pinch black pepper
a pinch turmeric
10 curry leaves (optional)
1 1-inch piece fresh hot pepper
a pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp masala powder
2 Tbsp ghee (or butter)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

Now, these girls do lots of prep. They peel and cut everything at once so all they have to do is add it to the pot. I'm not always so organized, but I'll write it down that way and you can do as you please. The only thing I never prep first is the potatoes because then they just sit there all peeled and naked, while the rest of the dish cooks... scandalous!

Cut the lamb into bite-sized pieces. Peel the onions, putting aside the first layer of each one. Slice the rest of the onions and set aside. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks. Peel and chop the ginger (alternatively, if someone you know is not big on ginger, you can leave it whole for flavor and take it out to serve). Peel the garlic cloves and cut in half.

To prepare the coconut sauce, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add one of the reserved onion layers, thinly sliced, and the coconut. Cook on medium heat for 8 minutes (the coconut will start to brown) and add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, pepper and curry leaves. Cook, stirring, another minutes or two and remove from heat. Let cool while you're cooking the rest. Once cool, add 1/2 cup water and mix well.

In a large pot, put in the lamb, onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, fresh hot pepper, and pinch of cayenne. Salt and add the lemon juice. Add 1 1/2 - 2 cups water (enough to just barely cover the meat and veggies) and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer 25-30 minutes.

Peel, chop and add the potatoes, masala powder, and coconut sauce. Let simmer another 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

For the garnish, heat the ghee/butter in a small pan. Brown the 2 reserved onion layers, thinly sliced. Either mix into the curry, or (as I prefer) use to garnish.

Ok, this is a long entry, but I can't let you go without saying how happy I am because my wonderful mentors, Psychgrad and Giz, over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen, have given me an award:

Yay yay yay! There don't appear to be specific rules for accepting this award, but I would like to send it along to two cooking blogs that I really appreciate.

One old favorite:
First to Camille over at croquecamille, my fellow Paris blogger, pastry chef extraordinaire, and (along with her husband Nick), cook of the best mexican food in the area :-) Her blog talks about living and working in Paris and cooking with the ingredients found here. If you haven't visited her blog, you definitely should.

And one new favorite:
Lately I discovered this relatively recent blog, Apples and Butter, and I've been thoroughly enjoying every entry so far. The concept is to balance apples (the healthy) and butter (the rich) and so far the recipes seem to do just that with a nice dose of delicious. Also I was thrilled to see that Apples and Butter has been adopted by Kristen herself over at Dine and Dish, so I'm sure you'll be hearing more about it!

Also, I would like to send off this award to one non-cooking blog that's very close to my heart, a French literary blog to be exact (although you will find some material in a rubric in English), Le blog littéraire de Delphine Kilhoffer. D.K. talks about life as a writer/proofreader in Paris, about books, about words, and lots of other interesting topics. This site definitely merits the title "Brilliante Weblog".


Anonymous said...

Je suis flattée - et toute rose de plaisir !

Anonymous said...

Merci mille fois! :)

I think lamb shoulder is lamb shoulder no matter what language you speak. Cuts of meat can get complicated, though. I found a website that translates beef cuts into 6 languages!


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Congrats! You deserve such an award!

Your dish looks scrumptious! I love spicy food!



Anonymous said...

ahah, you are cleary taking advantage of your new kitchen shelves! I can't believe you have so many spices lying around!! Amazing. Lucky lucky girl.

Hopie said...

D.K. - Je suis contente d'avoir cet effet ;-)

Camille - You're welcome. Crazy website! I love it. Ok, lamb shoulder sounded strange, but I guess I just don't have enough practice speaking English these days!

Rosa - Thank you! I'm a big fan of spicy food too and it can be hard to get really spicy food in France !

Colloquial - Yep, I'm so happy with my shelves. Now I can actually see all the spices I have and am using more of them!

Apples and Butter said...

Merci! (I don't speak French, but thought I would try in appreciation of the award!!) Thanks so much for the award and it thrills me to no end that you check out Apples and Butter on a regular basis!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

I ADORE Indian cuisine and your recipe looks great to me...Do you, by any chance know of a good (and I mean really good) Indian resataurant in Paris..?
I'm often up in Paris and, so far, despite only ever going to ones that have been recommended, they've always been a disappointment - too geared to French tastebuds, I guess...
I'd appreciate it but please do not feel obliged in any way..:)

Sam said...

I find I can get meat seriously reduced if I go to the supermarket just before closing, then I fill the freezer with it.

Hopie said...

Apples and Butter - De rien (you're more than welcome)! :-)

Here, there - Why yes, actually. My favorite Indian restaurant in Paris is in the 9e arrondissement, 12 rue La Fayette and it's called Ghandi Ji's. It's not super cheap though, and I recommend going for dinner because the lunch cook isn't quite as good. If you ask for your food spicy there, it actually comes spicy (unlike lots of place in France). Another decent one that makes spicy food if you ask for it is Servaaheefh (no idea how to pronounce that), C25 rue du Dr. Heulin in the 17e. It's far from any touristy areas, and so not as expensive. Seriously, if you have any questions about restaurants in Paris, don't hesitate to ask! It's a subject I'm passionate about, as you can tell ;-)

Sam - Oh that's a good idea! I'll have to try that. I do sometimes freeze whatever's on sale for later.

Nina Timm said...

I agree, a lot of food goes to waste, because of sell by dates that expires, but you surely grabbed the opportunity and put it to good use. I am glad I found your site on the blogroll.

Just Cook It said...

Great recipe and lovely blog. Lamb shoulder is such a wonderful cut.

giz said...

Wow - an incredible host of ingredients. I credit you for your stamina. I probably would have been confused after 5 ingredients :). Good shopping strategy. I do the same thing with most things except chicken and fish.

Hopie said...

Nina Timm - Thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the recipe :-)

Alex Rushmer - Lamb shoulder is one of my favorites. Paired with Indian spices, how could I resist!

Giz - Thank you! I agree the ingredient list looks scary, but a lot of the ingredients are spices, so it's not actually too bad :-)

Katharine said...

I"ll have to look for lamb shoulder in the Lancaster meat markets, just to try this incredible sounding recipe. And our Zimbabwean house guest, Nyasha, wistfully talks of how he grew up on a kind of corn meal mush - I've made him corn muffins which were a big hit, but polenta sounds closer to his childhood memory. Must try soon! The moonlight on the ocean this week has been bewitching. And, who should turn up on our beloved Cape Hedge beach yesterday but Mel Gibson, filming for his latest project, "The Edge of Darkness." Made us beach walkers climb over the rocks to stay out of his lens' view! Love, Mom