Indian food has an unfortunate reputation of being both time consuming and difficult.
This is not necessarily true.
Yes, there are curries out there that should properly be cooked down for hours and hours on low heat, curries which involve multiple spice pastes ground to just the correct texture and added at just the right times. The holiday, festival and banquet foods of India -are- indeed complex and involve a great deal of preparation and work to make properly.
But you know that everyone in India doesn’t eat or cook those dishes every day.
AND, I hope you also know that everything that is cooked and eaten in India isn’t a curry, with lots of sauce, right? You know that by now, surely.
What I’m getting at is that there are plenty of fairly simple, straightforward homestyle dishes cooked in India, and they are just as delicious and easy when cooked for our families here in the United States.
And this is one of those dishes.
These lamb patties are a riff off of several Madhur Jaffrey recipes and others I’ve used over the years. I’ve cooked those recipes often enough that I just sort of make up my own version off the top of my head, spicing the patties however I feel like on that particular day. These patties are simplicity itself to make–thy just require ground lamb, fresh garlic, ginger, scallions or shallots, fresh mint, spices and a wee bit of yogurt. They are mixed together and then pan fried in the tiniest amount of oil possible, because the rich lamb has enough fat to almost keep the patties from sticking to the pan.
Traditionally, when serving a non-sauced or dry dish in most Indian households, a wet salad, raita or chutney is served with it. For these patties, I chose to do a variation on my more traditional Green Chutney recipe. In this version, I used more cilantro, less mint and added Thai basil to the herbs. I used one large garlic clove, and plenty of fresh ginger, lime zest, lime juice and five red Thai chilies from my garden.
Let me tell you about these chilies.
They are beastly hot. I think it was because of our drought in June, but they are swelteringly, tongue-blisteringly hot this year. And I used five of them, because the seasonings in the lamb are so soft and gentle, that I really wanted the chutney to light a fire in the mouth. You can use as many or as few as you like, but use red ones, because the flecks of red look really pretty in the velvety green chutney.
For cooling the arson I committed with the chuntey, I also served the patties with a drizzle of my own homemade Greek yogurt. (Yes, you will eventually get a recipe for that–but I’m still tinkering about with it. Be patient!)
The texture of the patties is meltingly tender–especially if you are careful when you mix in the seasonings not to knead the meat too harshly. When you form the patties, be gentle and don’t compact the meat too tightly, just gently pat it into shape to get the proper tenderness. Also, make certain to let a crust form on the bottom of the patties before trying to flip them. That way they’ll have a lightly crisped outside and that soft melt-in-the-mouth inside, AND they won’t fall apart when you flip them.
This is an easy Indian main dish–I had it cooked and table ready in a mere 45 minutes, though I could have managed 30 minutes if I’d rushed at it.
Fast enough for a weekday dinner…and bursting with flavor, texture and color.
Lamb Patties With Incendiary Green Chutney
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seed
1 whole clove
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon yogurt
1″ cube fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 scallions, white and light green parts only
7 large fresh spearmint leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
scant amount of oil to pan fry
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 cup packed Thai basil leaves
1/4 cup packed spearmint leaves
dark green tops of one scallion
zest of 1/2 lime
5 red Thai chilies
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste
Toast the first six ingredients lightly over medium heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. When browned and fragrant, pour into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Mix with the rest of the ingredients up to but not including the scant oil to pan fry, kneading the meat mixture gently with your hands. Do not knead roughly.
Gently form into round patties about three inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
Set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the chutney.
Take all the rest of the ingredients up to but not including the lime juice and grind thoroughly in a food grinder. Put red-flecked green paste in a bowl and stir in lime juice. Salt to taste.
In a wide, heavy bottomed skillet, heat a small amount of canola oil over medium heat. When the pan is smoking hot, add the patties, and leave them in position for at least two minutes, or until a crust forms on the bottom, and the patties are easily picked up with a spatula and flipped. Cook for eight minutes, or until the other side is browned and somewhat crisp and the inside is a pale pink and very tender.
When patties are done, serve them atop rice, drizzled with yogurt and topped with some the Incendiary Green Chutney.
Eat it and weep tears of joy and pain from the chutney’s relentless firepower. (Or at least, eat it and your nose will run!)
Now see, that wasn’t so hard, was it? And it was mighty good too–admit it.
Good enough to make again, I’ll wager.
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