Lamb Coconut Curry
As one peruses a menu of an Indian restaurant, one might notice that the meat options are focused solely on chicken, seafood, and lamb. But, growing up, lamb was something that was not ever cooked at my house. My mom, to this day, does not like it and so I was not exposed to it until my 20’s when my taste buds began to be more adventurous. At our house, the meat of choice has always been chicken (or ground beef for some amazing kebabs) and so chicken is where my comfort lies when it comes to carnivorous Indian cooking/eating. However, I wanted to add to my Indian food repertoire so I challenged myself to make a lamb dish.
Please note that in these photos everything was doubled because I was cooking for a crowd! Plus, leftovers are always something to smile about. 🙂
If you think you are like my mom and do not like lamb, I have a couple of tips. First, make sure the lamb you eat is FRESH. I got this lamb from Olympia Meats on West Randolph in Chicago and boy, oh boy, was it super fresh. I walked into this spotless butcher thinking I wanted lamb shoulder, but the really nice man suggested leg (I do think either will work) and cut it fresh in front of me. I learned that they got their lamb from a farm in Iowa and while I try to eat humanely treated and organic meat, my options were few and far between for this culinary venture. Second tip I have is to make sure that the lamb is cooked properly. Cooking a tougher cut like leg low and slow was super key for a tender, flavorful dish. And for real, folks, this lamb curry was AWESOME. I even froze the rest and took it to my sister and brother in law this weekend and even they were super impressed (they tend to be harsh/judgmental foodies).
Like most of my Indian dishes (and frankly like so many others), I started with sautéing my onion before adding in my garlic, spices, and tomatoes.
I really like the flavor profile of a red onion in this dish as I think it adds more onion-y flavor than a white or yellow.
I like to add my whole spices next to get a little more flavor developed as the heat brings out the yumminess.
Next, I added my ground spices, salt, and in the cheesecloth I tied in my bay leaf, cardamom, and cloves. I have found that grinding these up leave my masala mixture (masala = spice) a little grainy, so this makes it easy to take out. You can include the cinnamon sticks in the cheese cloth, but I find that these are easy to fish out because they are so big.
See those things that look like bay leaves? Those are actually curry leaves. I only have ever found them at an Indian store. They are edible and the taste, to me, is almost indescribable. But, since I’m writing about them, I feel compelled to try and describe it. Curry leaves are very aromatic to a dish, but not to the nose. They expel a flavor unlike anything else and maybe you could say they taste a bit like cumin, light anise, and maybe a bit lemony. We had a curry tree house plant growing up and my mom would have me snip leaves for her to add to her cooking. I was quite handy back then with such jobs.
After combining the mix with coconut milk and pureeing it, I added back to the lamb and stuck it in the oven for HOURS. Ok, well, it was just four hours, but that is still defined as HOURS. I like to think of this as a lamb sauna because, well, that’s just how I’m thinking of it. Ha!
After the lamb sauna, you have magic. Above you see the final product after the addition of the peas. The chunks of the onion have dissolved and what you have is my glorious lamb coconut curry.
I served this on top of basmati rice, but you can serve it with naan or roti. At home, we always have rice with Indian food, so I’m a rice gal.
The only fail about this dish was a personal one. I gave the leftovers away and had none for myself! AHHHH!
I hope you try out a lamb dish next time you go out to an Indian restaurant, or if you try this one out at home, let me know how it goes!
- 1.5 lbs lamb (shoulder or leg) - cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 red onion - chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes - chopped
- 3 tbsp minced ginger
- 3 garlic cloves - chopped
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 cloves
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1-2 dried red chilies
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 curry leaves - optional
- 1 cup frozen peas (I prefer pigeon peas)
- Handful of fresh, chopped cilantro
- Salt to taste
- Marinate lamb with 1.5 tbsp of the minced ginger, reserving the rest, for 4 hours or overnight
- In a dutch oven, sear marinated lamb on all sides, set aside
- Add oil to pan and sauté onion until soft, about 5 minutes
- Add garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon stick, and red chilies. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning
- Add tomatoes, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, salt to taste, and your cloves, cardamom, and bay leaf (these should be tied in cheese cloth with kitchen string for ease of removal before blending)
- Cook covered, stirring once or twice to prevent burning, for 10 minutes
- Let mix cool, remove cinnamon sticks and cheesecloth spices, and and add to food processor with half the can of coconut milk. Puree until smooth.
- Add back into the dutch oven the lamb, puree, cheesecloth spices, beef broth, and remaining coconut milk. Stir.
- Bake in 275 degree oven 3-4 hours, stirring every hour until lamb falls apart.
- Remove from oven and add the peas
- Place back in oven for 25 minutes
- Remove cheesecloth spices
- Serve hot topped with fresh cilantro