So this spring Mark has just gotten obsessed with lamb. Mark never had lamb as a child. Then in the late 1970s he tried it for the first time. Overcooked. Smothered in mint jelly. I just don’t get mint jelly to begin with. Why was it ever invented except to drown out the gamy taste of overcooked lamb? So like most people of a certain age, Mark decided never to eat lamb again.
Until I grilled him up a lamb chop one day. Medium rare. As it should be. There is a trick to grilling lamb chops or any meat with a sizable ring of fat on it. You can trim off the fat, but what have I been telling you over and over? What? I can’t hear you?
That’s better. Fat equals flavor. So you don’t want to trim off the fat. You want to start the chops on the hot side of the grill to get a good sear on both sides. Then when the dripping fat causes the fire to leap through the grate, threatening to incinerate not only the chops but the hair on your eyebrows, move the chops to the cooler side of the grill. So if you’re using a gas grill, crank up one side to medium high heat and keep the other side on medium heat. Then you cook them to medium rare, using the “hand touch” method to determine medium rare.
Now I’m going to completely reverse myself. Yes, if you are grilling lamb it should be medium rare. However, if you are making a stew or curry you want to braise it to within an inch of its life. Somehow lamb travels from delicious rare to stinky overcooked to succulent braised for hours in a liquid. I don’t know why that is but it’s a fact.
I am no lamb curry expert, so I turned to Tyler Florence from the Food Network. I think he is one of the most consistently underrated great chefs in America. Whenever I’m looking for a definitive recipe in any category, I check with Tyler first. So we tried his Indian lamb curry. Quite tasty. I will admit that I did not grind up the spices as Tyler instructs because I would have had to buy them and I already had the ground up variety in the pantry. You all know how cheap I am.
Indian Lamb Curry
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cloves
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cumin seed
- 11/2 tablespoon fennel seed
- 1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons turmeric
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 10 fresh curry leaves
- 3 pounds boned shoulder lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 fresh red chili
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 large fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 cup plain unsweetened natural yogurt
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 scallion, cut into strips
- 6 cups steamed basmati rice
Begin by setting a large, heavy-based pot over medium heat. Grind the cloves, fennel, cumin, coriander, and turmeric in a spice grinder. Add oil to the hot pot and pour in the spices. Throw in cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, curry leaves, and chilli. Toast for 2-3 minutes until golden and aromatic – be careful, the leaves will splatter a little. While they are toasting, add onion, garlic and ginger to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Season cubed lamb with salt and pepper then add to the pot of oil and spices. Brown all over, about 5-7 minutes.Add onion puree and sweat a little to remove some of the moisture – about 8 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon as you go. Now add fresh tomatoes and cover slightly with lid. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes until the lamb is tender. Remove the lid and skim fat off the surface. Fold in the yogurt and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and scallions serve with steamed basmati rice and raita.