I wouldn't really call myself a curry person. I enjoy curries when I eat them, but I very seldom think "man, I really feel like a curry tonight". I automatically skip over the curry section of a menu, and only ever eat at Indian restaurants at someone else's suggestion.
It's pretty much unheard of for me to cook curry at home. So it's quite odd that as I sat at my desk today, staring out at the dull drizzle that has recently usurped our Summer, it occurred to me that tonight would be a good night to make lamb curry (p150).
The suggested accompaniment for lamb curry is cucumber salad, or 'raita' (p150). Along with that, I decided to make some lemon rice (p106), which would round it all off into a decent meal.
I'd intended to make the full recipe of curry, thus providing myself with 'lunch leftovers' for a couple of days, but when I got to the supermarket and saw the price of lamb, I decided to stay with my usual half-recipe. The recipe isn't very specific about what cuts of lamb to use, but it doesn't seem to indicate anything bone-in, so I got a pack of leg steaks and cut them into cubes.
I began by chopping up and cooking some onions and garlic. While these were cooking, I tossed the meat in seasoned flour, ready for cooking. When the onions were cooked, I scooped them out and set them aside while I browned the lamb in two batches.
This done, I returned all the meat and onions to the pan, along with tomato paste, ginger, cumin, chilli ground coriander, ground cardamom, and chicken stock. I have to confess to a certain amount of 'cheating' - I used ginger and garlic out of a jar instead of fresh, and since I wasn't about to buy a whole packet of fresh chillis just to use one, I just added a generous sprinkle of chilli flakes instead.
There didn't seem to be much liquid, so I sloshed in a little more stock. Then I placed a lid over the pan and left it gently simmering while I went about preparing my accompaniments.
Cucumber salad (raita) is pretty similar to Greek tzatziki - it's mostly cucumber and yoghurt, but this one also includes toasted cumin seeds and spring onions. Firstly, you have to salt the seeded, chopped cucumbers, and leave them for 15 minutes (I presume this is to remove the excess liquid from the cucumber). Meanwhile, I was toasting the cumin seeds in a dry pan and keeping an eye on the curry.
After 15 minutes, I rinsed and drained the cucumber pieces, and combined them with the cumin seeds, chopped spring onion, and some yoghurt. I used Greek yoghurt, mostly because I really like the creaminess of it. The recipe is for plain unsweetened yoghurt though, so whichever you prefer.
Finally, I put on the rice, placing equal quantities of long grain rice and water in a pan with lemon zest and juice. It's pretty easy - you just bring it to the boil, then turn the heat off, and let the rice absorb the water as it sits on the warm element. I did find that when I went to use the rice, it was slightly scorched in the bottom of the pan - but I'm not sure at what stage of the rice-cooking this occurred.
The recipe states to cook the curry for an hour, or until the meat is tender. I thought that was a bit weird, since lamb is quite tender to start with - it doesn't usually require long, slow cooking. My half recipe had cooked almost all the liquid out of it by the time I turned it off at the 40-minute mark. Half an hour would probably have been better.
I was astonished at how tasty I found the curry. It actually approximates the earthy flavour of an authentic Indian curry, but without the huge list of spices you generally see on a curry recipe. Granted, there are a few spices in there, but any you don't already have in the cupboard will be cheap and easy to find (and don't forget I took a few shortcuts with mine).
There's a reason why the raita is recommended with the curry. The fresh, tangy creaminess cuts through that earthy curry taste, and tones down the spiciness. I did put quite a few of those chilli flakes in, after all - but the great thing about making curry at home is that you can choose your own spice level.
As for the lemon rice, it was a bit overshadowed by the curry, but it's not meant to be the star of the show, after all. Simply adding a little lemon juice and rind into your rice pot makes for a subtle difference in flavour, something to try if you're sick of bland, plain rice.
I think I enjoyed this meal more than anything else I've eaten in weeks. It's made me think differently about cooking curry at home. I can't afford to buy lamb all the time, but it might be worthwhile experimenting with beef, or with cheaper lamb cuts like chops. Meanwhile, I thoroughly recommend the recipe as it stands. It's simple and very tasty. What's not to like?
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