‘What do you fancy?’ Such is my query of friends and others that I encounter during the days immediately preceding the deadline for my weekly food column.
Curry got the most mentions and I’m happy about that, because it was just what I fancied. And lamb was the object of desire. Now, many people cop out when stewing lamb and go for the leg. I know why. It’s because leg meat is always available. Not true of the best cut for a lamb stew – the shoulder or the neck.
For these now ‘old-fashioned’ cuts you need to find a butcher who actually has bits to butcher, not just pre packs of already trimmed up muscles. That way when you ask for a boned out shoulder your butcher will look surprised and pleased because he has the very thing out back and not surprised (because no one has asked for shoulder meat since our grandmothers were at the stoves), and down in the mouth because he has nothing to sell you. Where do all the good lamb stewing cuts go now we’re so fixated on the glamour parts?
This is a basic lamb curry made easy with the use of a quality curry spice mix. Herbie’s Spices is the brand of choice and the curry mix with whole seeds and spices is my favourite. If you wanted to save more time, ask the butcher to trim up the shoulder and cut the meat into large cubes. It is however, very therapeutic doing this task yourself and you can remove as much fat as you like – much easier to slice off in big pieces than re trim already cubed meat.
‘A stew boiled is a stew spoiled’ is not just cooking cliché. Cook the curry over the lowest heat possible, with barely a bubble or two visible. For shoulder meat the cooking time may take from three to four hours. Just keep checking on that advancing state of melting tenderness.
Lamb curry with yoghurt & tomatoes
1.5 kg lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into large cubes
2 onions, cut into half rings
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped fine
1 large red chilli, seeds removed and chopped fine
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp Herbies Curry Spice Mix
2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
½ tsp garam masala (a mix of sweet, fragrant spices)
150g plain yoghurt
1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped, extra
Heat the ghee in a large pot. Saute the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli till soft and golden.
Add the curry powder and sauté for a minute. Add the meat and mix very well. Saute for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and mint, stir, cover and cook over very low heat for three hours or until the meat is tender. Five minutes before the end, stir in the garam masala, yoghurt and extra mint.