Thursday 26 June 2014

Pulled Lamb and Chickpea Curry and Creamy Chicken and Nectarine Curry served with Bombay Potatoes and Buttery Garlic Naan

Recently, this blog has been accused of not being ridiculous enough. Let’s rectify this, shall we?

If you don’t already have spices knocking around your kitchen, acquiring the ingredients for this dish could end up being quite pricey. I’ve used individual spices, because that’s what I have. But if you don’t have any of them, and don’t think you’ll use them after this dish, a spice blend would work out much cheaper.

That said, even without having to buy spices, the sheer quantity of ingredients required makes it relatively expensive. However, you should note that this “meal for one” is more like a feast. For one. That part’s non-negotiable. All the food you wind up with should last for AT LEAST four meals. And curries get even better over time! To make it more cost effective, you can bulk it up with rice.

Oh, and you’ll notice I just call these dishes “curry”. I’ve never been to India and I sorta made these up as I went along, so I feel entirely unqualified to attempt any sort of classification. But good Gandhi do they taste amazing, and really that's all that matters. They’re quite mild though, so if you like your curries hot, add more chilli peppers.

I came here to make curry and chew bubblegum…

    Fry lamb shoulder chunks in a little oil, while mincing a whole lot of onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Remove the browned meat and cook the minced ingredients, while finely chopping many, many tomatoes. Grind cardamom seeds along with turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, black pepper and salt. Add lemon juice and oil to make a curry paste. Scoop this into the pan with the now soft onion mix, and fry. Throw in the tomatoes and their juice and simmer until they no longer look like tomatoes. They are now something much, much more. This is your curry base. We’ll play with this to make our two curries.

    Transfer half of the curry base into a casserole dish. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a drained tin of chickpeas, plus a generous amount of cayenne pepper and water. Heat back up, then chuck the lamb in and put the sealed dish in the oven at 150ºC for 2-3 hours. Take it out, remove the lamb to a plate and promptly tear the meat off the bones. Return the meat to the sauce and toss in a handful or two of baby spinach leaves. After a few minutes, it’s done and good to eat.

    With the other half of the curry base, pour in a tin of coconut milk and heat. Chop up a pair of chicken breasts and add them to the sauce. Leave at a very low heat, infusing the chicken as it cooks. After an hour or so, halve a pair of nectarines and place them in the sauce. Cook until soft, and it’s good to eat.

    Peel and boil potatoes, until just cooked. Drain, then cut into bite-sized cubes. Heat olive oil and butter in a frying pan and fry a combination of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sliced chilli, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and salt for 1 minute. In this hot, spiced oil, coat and fry the potatoes. When they’re crisped, cover the pan and lower the heat. Leave for about 10 minutes. Throw on some fresh coriander and it’s good to eat.

    Roll out a ball shaped piece of dough into a flat, naan shaped piece of dough. Slice up some garlic and scatter it on top. Use the rolling pin to squash it into the dough, then put it into a hot oven. When it starts to golden, take it out and scrape some butter onto it. It’s good to eat.

    Time it right and serve everything together, with a little plain yoghurt on the side and an ice cold beer. It’s very, very good to eat.

That… that was the short recipe?

‘Fraid so. Let’s get cracking, shall we?


For the Base
  • 3 large onions
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb of ginger
  • 2 dried chillies
  • approx. 10 tomatoes
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter

For the Lamb Curry
  • 1 shoulder of lamb, cut in 4
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 handfuls of spinach

For the Chicken Curry
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 2 nectarines

For the Bombay Potatoes
  • 1kg potatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a handful of fresh coriander

For the Naan

You’ll also need a casserole dish/dutch oven/cataplana/anything large that can be used both on the hob and in the oven. A food processor could also make your life a bit easier, as there’s a lot of very fine chopping to be done. Failing that, a sharp knife and a keen sense of determination should do the trick.

On a related note, you could not bother at all with cutting up the 10 tomatoes, and instead just use 2 standard tins of chopped tomatoes. Depending on location and season, this could be the far cheaper option. I use tins everyday, mostly for italian sauces, and there’s nothing wrong with them. For curries though, I prefer the texture (and I think taste) difference that can be achieved with fresh, chopped tomatoes.

    Alright, down to business. When you buy your shoulder of lamb, ask the butcher to chop it into four pieces. Without a hacksaw, this would be difficult to do at home. They don’t need to be even sized, it’s just to make it more manageable. Rub some salt and pepper into the meat, then fry in a little olive oil. Turn the lamb regularly, trying to brown it on all sides.

    While that’s happening, cut up the onion as finely as you can. Onion is like… like the Freemasons. It controls the flavours, but if done right, you won’t even know it’s there. The pieces should be small enough that they’ll pretty much dissolve during cooking. Once you’ve done that, do the same with the garlic, ginger and chilli. The final curry should not have a recognisable chunk of any of these ingredients.

    Take the meat out of the pan and set it to one side, covered. Using the lamb juices still in the pan, fry all your beautifully minced ingredients on a medium-low heat. In the time it takes for them to soften, chop the tomatoes up very small and then prepare a curry paste. Do this by cracking open the cardamom pods and emptying their seeds into a mortar and grinding them up with the pestle. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, don’t worry, just crush them anyway you can and put the result in a cup. Add all the other spice ingredients from the list “for the base” and grind everything together. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon half, pour in the teaspoon of olive oil and mix it all into a paste.

    Scoop out the paste and mix it into the onions. Keep frying for a few minutes, then add all the tomatoes you chopped. Let them simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’ll gradually turn into a thick, orangey, mushy sauce. Which sounds really unappetising. Such is the way of Indian cuisine… But this mush packs all the right flavours and the perfect consistency upon which to base your curries. Now the fun begins.

Boy am I regretting making this all one post.

Yeah, you’re telling me

Let’s just get through this together, okay?

    The base is done, but we want to make two very different flavoured curries, so go ahead and move half of the sauce to your casserole dish. Into this one, add the tin of chopped tomatoes. Tinned tomatoes, to my mind, have a more… tomatoey taste, if that makes sense. We didn’t use them for the base, because we were keeping that neutral, but now we actually want this curry to have that distinctive flavour. Also, it’ll bulk it up and give it extra moisture.

    Drain the chickpeas, rinse them out, then add them as well. Throw in the cayenne pepper along with a glass of water. If you want this curry to be proper spicy, add another chopped chilli or two at this point. Don’t worry if the sauce looks very thin, it’ll reduce in the oven. Now heat the casserole dish on the hob, until the contents start to bubble. Preheat your oven to 150ºC.

    Take the lamb that you’d set aside and dunk it into the sauce. Try to submerge the meat as much as possible, but don’t worry if it’s still sticking out. Cover the dish and put it in the oven.This will slowly cook for at least 2 hours. Stir it around once or twice during that time, to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking. It’ll be done when the lamb is tender and ready to come off the bones.

    During that time, we’ll cook everything else. First, make the second curry. To the pan that has the remaining curry base in it, add the coconut milk. While you’re heating that, cut up the chicken breast into rough chunks. Add them to the creamy sauce and turn the heat down super low and cover the pan. On my cooker, I put it as low as it would go, but that still ended up slowly simmering it. The chicken will half marinate, half cook (well, fully cook. But if I said that the math wouldn’t add up). Leave it for an hour. After that, turn the heat off and leave it covered.

Are we done now?

    Not even close. Start making dough if you haven’t already got some. You’ve plenty of time and it’s dead easy, so don’t chicken out on me now. All it needs is the first half hour or so of proving, followed by the violent bashing. After that you can use it straight away, or leave it in the fridge until needed. This is for the naan, and garlic naan alone is a worthy reason to make dough, never mind all the other things you can do with it.

    Again, while that’s happening (look at you, multi-tasking like a champ!), you can start on the next thing, Bombay Potatoes. Peel the potatoes, the skins don’t really work with this dish. About 4 or 5 nice big ones, halved, should be enough. Put ‘em in a big pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Starting with cold water makes them cook more evenly. Boil like this for about 20 minutes, or however long it takes before you can split one with a fork. Drain and let cool a little before cutting each of the halves into 6 cubes.

    At this point, we want to start making sure everything will be finished at the same time. Don’t do anything else until the lamb in the oven is ready to come off the bones. Once it is, pull the dish out of the oven, and then take the lamb out of the dish. On a plate, use two forks to strip the lamb meat away from the bone and cartilage. Discard the bones and slip the meat back into the curry. I got so much meat from my lamb’s shoulder that I kept some aside and used it for kebabs the next day.

    Okay, back to the potatoes. Heat up the oil and butter in a wide frying pan and drop in a few mustard seeds. When the seeds pop and jump, add the rest of the seeds, the spices and the (sliced) chilli to the pan. You only want to fry the spices on their own for about a minute before dumping in the potatoes. Toss them around to coat all their sides with the flavoured oil and fry until they crisp at the edges. When they do, cover them and turn the heat down low. Keep cooking them like this for 10-15 minutes.

    Alright, home stretch. Heat up both the curries as the potatoes are doing their thing. If either are looking too dry for your tastes, don’t be afraid to add a little water. Cut the nectarines in half and remove the stones. Place them into the creamy chicken curry, face down like you’re drowning them. In flavour! Wash two handfuls of spinach leaves and stir them into the lamb curry. At first, you’ll be all “Oh no! I’ve turned my curry into a shrub!”, but don’t be silly, you haven’t. The leaves will dramatically shrink and your curry will be safe once more.

    Now the lamb curry, the chicken curry and the potatoes are cooked and ready to go, but are perfectly happy to wait a few more minutes. So to finish this madness off, turn the oven on to 180ºC and pull out your bread dough. Grab a lump a little smaller than a baseball and roll it out on a flour dusted surface, until about 1cm thick. Make as many as you want. Cut up 2 garlic cloves per naan and then sprinkle them evenly over the rolled out dough. With the rolling pin, squish them into the dough. This magically stops the bread from rising, and not so magically makes it taste of garlic. Place the naan on a tray and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until it just starts to turn golden in spots.

    Holy shit-monkeys, we’re done! Take the naan out and butter it, so that goodness melts all over everything. Tear up the fresh coriander and throw it onto the potatoes, making them look extra fancy. Serve with a little plain yoghurt to balance out the spiciness. For bonus points, eat without a fork.

Christ… I’m going to go lie down now.

(The base that you make at the beginning can pretty much be turned into any type of curry you want. Experiment with it, and feel free to share in the comments if you make anything tasty!)

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