I like to play with cooking techniques when I come up with new dishes.
For example–I like to take the French techniques I learned in culinary school and apply them to other cuisines. Usually what happens is I end up with a recipe that tastes both traditional and sublime–the flavors of the original cuisine are there, and are simply boosted and magnified by using French techniques.
The results are subtle, and are not really what I would call a “fusion’ dish–to me, fusion cuisine is where the flavors AND techniques from two or more cuisines are mingled–hopefully in a sensible and respectful fashion–creating a dish that is completely new. In combining traditional flavors with a “foreign” technique, you end up with an original dish that tastes exactly like the original cuisine, but with some subtle difference in flavor, texture or mouthfeel.
This dish, for example, is basically an Indian lamb curry.
But, instead of cooking the meat in a water or yogurt based sauce, I cooked it in a stock, then reduced the resulting liquid into a thick, meat flavored sauce. The resulting sauce was then enriched with minced herbs (fresh cilantro from my garden and curry leaves) and smoothed out with a generous tablespoon and a half of Greek yogurt, then perked up with a squeeze of lemon juice. If I hadn’t reduced the stock first, I’d have had to use much more yogurt to thicken the sauce, and it would have diluted the rich meat flavor of the sauce.
This really is a simple and fast curry to make, especially if you have a pressure cooker. (Fear not–if you have no pressure cooker, a regular soup pot will do, it will just take a bit longer to cook!) The flavors are strong and clean, and go perfectly with a plain steamed basmati rice or a simple pilau with few ingredients.
It’s also good with a beautiful green salad, or maybe a dish of Bengali Summer Squash, since around here, zucchini, crookneck and pattypan squashes are all starting to come in, and this lamb dish would taste divine with squash on the side.
Lamb With Cilantro and Curry Leaf Sauce
3 tablespoons ghee, canola oil or coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds lamb, cut into 1″ cubes and patted dry
3 to 4 large cloves garlic, minced
1″ cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1-3 red or green Thai chilies–to taste–stems removed and minced
10 fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 whole cloves
1/4 inch chunk cinnamon bark
25 green cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns (you may add more of these to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2-2 1/2 cups lamb or chicken stock (For a pressure cooker, use 1 1/2-2 cups, for a regular pot use 2 1/2 cups)
2 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt
salt to taste
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper flakes
1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
8 fresh curry leaves
whole cilantro leaves for garnish
Heat ghee or oil over medium heat in the bottom of either a pressure cooker or a large heavy bottomed pot. Add onion, slices, sprinkle with salt and stir. Cook, stirring, until the onion is a nice golden brown color.
Add the lamb, and spread so it is in an even layer over top of the onions. Cook undisturbed for about two minutes.
Sprinkle the minced garlic, ginger and chilies, and the whole curry leaves over the meat. Grind all of the whole spices into a powder and sprinkle over the meat, along with the turmeric and paprika.
Cook, stirring, until the lamb is mostly browned and the entire mixture smells very good. Pour in the stock and deglaze the pan carefully, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom.
If using a pressure cooker, bring the liquid to a boil, put the lid on the pressure cooker, lock it in place and bring up to full pressure. Turn down the heat to low, and cook for fifteen minutes, then remove from the burner and use the quick release method to release pressure and open the cooker.
For a regular pot, bring to a boil, cover, and turn heat down and simmer until the lamb is fork tender–about 40-45 minutes.
For both the pressure cooker and the regular pot, remove cover and return the heat to high. Boil to reduce the liquid until it thickens and is at about 1/3 of the starting volume. Basically, there should not be very much liquid left in the pot.
Add the two tablespoons of yogurt and stir well to combine. Turn the heat down and simmer 1 minute to incorporate the yogurt. Taste now for salt and add more if necessary.
Grind up the cilantro leaves and the 8 curry leaves in a food processor into a very finely minced green flurry. Scrape these tiny verdant bits into the pot and turn off heat. Stir well to incorporate. Stir in the Aleppo pepper flakes and then serve over rice on warmed plates immediately, garnishing with whole cilantro leaves.
This makes enough for 4-6 people, depending on what all else you serve with it.
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