27 March 2014

Indian Spiced Lamb in Yogurt Sauce

You've all played the Forever food game, where you pick one type of cuisine to eat for the rest of your life because you love it just that much.  For the hubs that's Mexican...my man would eat chilaquiles, enchiladas and huevos rancheros every day and be completely satisfied until his dying day.  And honestly, I could too...as a runner up.  Without a doubt, my Forever food is (and always) will be Indian.  Tender basmati, chewy naan, sweet lassi, flavorful masala, rich yogurt, spicy chilies....I could go on forever.

One of my proudest moments as a foodie was with this cuisine.  The hubs and I were invited over to our friends home for a traditional Indian dinner with her parents.  Always the overly-courteous guest, I demanded asked if I could bring a side.  Now most would not choose to make a dish from the country which your hosts were originally from...but I did anyway.  When my friend's father asked me for my cauliflower recipe later that evening, I was honored beyond belief.  If it's going to be my Forever food, it had better be good!

In preparation of our big move to Minneapolis, we're trying to whittle down out pantry and spice cabinet as much as bearable possible.  This includes an enormous container of garam masala that my girlfriend brought to me as a souvenir from India.  An unfortunately underused spice which is fabulous sprinkled on just about anything.  Roasting veggies?  Baking fish?  Grilling chicken?  Add a pinch and you'll be very pleased.

Along with saag paneer and tikka masala, this dish is absolutely one of my favorites.  It is filled with the rich flavors of fresh ginger, garlic, tomatoes and chilies along with the pungent scents of tumeric, cumin and my beloved garam masala.  All of these delicious flavors combine with rich, creamy yogurt to make a sauce that is simply out of this world.  It's phenomenal on any type protein, but I am particularly fond of using lamb for its unique flavor profile.  Pork and beef are other favorites, but you could absolutely make this a vegetarian dish with paneer or chickpeas.

If you're looking at that ingredient list above thinking, "Holy hot...I could never eat that," please understand we're discussing spices, not heat.  If you are a super-taster who finds black pepper a bit much, simply omit the chilies completely and you will have a lovely, flavorful dish.  As for the hubs and I, we can never get enough.  (People always ask "Really?" when I order a 4 out of 4 at a Thai or Indian restaurant.  Surprise order from the pale redhead!)  Two serranos and you will have a mouth on fire!  One will settle you nicely in the middle, and of course seeds can be included or omitted for more or less heat.

Indian Spiced Lamb in Yogurt Sauce (2-3 servings)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 c packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1-2 serrano chilies, cut into fine rings (for less heat, omit seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tbs garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 c plain greek yogurt 
  • 1 1/2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb lamb, cubed
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 c cooked jasmine or brown rice
  • 2 pieces garlic naan
  • 2 c fresh spinach, roughly chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, ginger, tomato, cilantro, serrano chilies, tumeric, garam masala, cumin, yogurt, tomato paste and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix together until well combined, then add the cubed lamb and stir until the meat is evenly coated.  Set aside. 

Place a large braising pan or dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil.  When hot and shimmering, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 20-30 seconds until fragrant and lightly browned.  Transfer the lamb into the pan with 1/2 cup water and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and continue to cook for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until the lamb is tender and cooked through. 

 Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Serve over the cooked rice and chopped spinach.  Excellent with a side of garlic naan. 

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