Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recipe: Lamb and Spinach Curry

Because of deep love, one is courageous. Because of frugality, one is generous. Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world. – Lao Tzu

Lamb curry. Delicately spice with just enough "heat."

A few nights ago the spouse and I were at the grocery store lusting over the lamb chops.

We were bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t had lamb in a very long time. It’s just too expensive. So we passed it by. I can’t remember what we did buy, but I bet it was either on sale or marked down.

The curry before adding the spinach.
I don’t mean to come across as complaining, but it seems wages stay the same and everything else around us goes up in cost.

I guess I am complaining. So what? We all should. It seems corporate salaries and bonuses aren't subject to the same flatline. And don't give me any of that crap that they're worth it.

Do more with less is the mantra all of us plebeians are fed daily from our news outlets. We’ll I’m getting fed up with that, actually. Something’s got to give. Can anyone say "go postal?"

I wouldn't actually do that. But less expendable income has made me a much more savvy shopper. I shop thinking of at least two meals ahead, if not three. What can I buy on sale and use several times over several meals? It’s a mindset that wasn’t all that difficult to get in to once I started.

If you’re a regular reader you probably think my grocery bill is astronomical. But that’s not the case at all. I always shop what is on sale (or better, marked down) and then cook it within a day or two. I swear.

My frugality has become so well known that one of my co-workers saw me come in with grocery bags after lunch a few days ago and asked “what was on sale today?”. I was proud to say a full side of steelhead trout ($6.60, PLUS 30% off) and—are you ready— lamb. (Why else would I be writing this post, right?)

Ready to serve. The sauce has thickened and
the spinach is in and wilted down.
Yes, lamb. What a coincidence, eh? I picked up a package of loin chops (30% off again) and three regular chops. In total, about 1 pound of meat for approximately $7.00. That’s a good deal.

Lamb curry is one of my favourite Indian dishes, and I hadn’t made it in a long, long time. I love the combination of aromatic spices, the flavourful lamb and earthy spinach. It all just “fits” together so well.

Lamb, goat and pork are common curry ingredients in India. If you remember, cows are sacred to Hindus so beef is a no-no for them. And if you’re Muslim (or Jewish), pork is out, but beef is OK… To each his own, as they say. Vive et alteros vivere permitte (live and let live).

As a “lapsed Baptist” (I love that phrase) I’ll eat just about anything that crosses my path.

Lamb curry or “lamb” curry...
As I was researching about lamb curry (to back up my blather) I came across an interesting tidbit I thought I would pass on from The Telegraph newspaper in the UK, dated April 30, 2012. 

Some of their investigative reporters did a study/sting operation in the Spring of this year (2012) where they purchased lamb curries from 20 different vendors. They then took them to a lab and tested for actual lamb content. 

Believe it or not, out of the 39 individual dishes they purchased, none of them had just lamb meat, but included a mixture of much cheaper cuts of pork, beef and/or chicken combined with lamb. Incredibly, four of the total contained NO lamb at all!

This is not a good thing, because this means people are consuming meats that they are either prohibited from eating due to religious beliefs or because of health restrictions.

Can you imagine? Capitalism at its finest. Let’s cut every corner we can. That’s what’s wrong with the world. Profit trumps the basic “love thy neighbour as thyself.” I’m not particularly religious, but come on, people. We have to have some basic respect for each other.

It seems you can’t trust anyone. Where’s my cave??? At least if you cook at home you know what goes into your food…unless it’s genetically modified (GMO). I’m sure we’ll all die of some exotic, bizarre, new diseases because of those corporate-greed-driven (insert expletive here) business “men.”

But back to the recipe. This one’s a keeper. the next time you find lamb on sale pick it up and try this recipe. To round out the meal, serve with basmati rice and raita (recipe here) to feed four.

Lamb and Spinach Curry
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 35 min  |  Serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil, or ghee
This is amazing stuff.
1 lb cubed lamb meat
8 oz package spinach
1 large onion, quartered
3 tbsp ginger, chopped
8 garlic, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 thai red chillies, chopped with seeds
2 tsp cumin, ground
2 tsp cardamom, ground
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef broth
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
4 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt to taste

Heat the oil over high heat in a wide sauté pan or Dutch oven. Fry the onion, ginger, garlic and Thai chillies until the onions start to brown.

Add meat and cook until slightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Add the cumin, cardamom, sugar, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli flakes and bay leaves.* Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef broth, black pepper, tomatoes and tomato paste.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir to ensure the mixture doesn’t stick.

After 20 minutes add the spinach and cover the pot. Let it cook covered until the spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Then uncover, stir together and let cook for a further 10 minutes. The sauce will thicken.

Taste for salt and adjust.

* If you’re not into making your own curry mixture (although it is easy) substitute 2 tablespoons of your favourite curry powder mixture for the cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli flakes and bay leaves. If it’s hot curry powder, exclude the two Thai chillies as well. Still use the sugar, though.


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