• Lamb curry with yoghurt & tomatoes

    Lamb Curry with yoghurt & tomatoes

    ‘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.

    The Recipe

    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.

  • Spanish smoked paprika chicken

    Spanish smoked paprika chicken salad

    You’ve got unexpected visitors arriving for dinner. Sure there’s enough food on hand but it’s stock-standard family fare, not really intended for public showcase. Here’s an elegant presentation of simple, honest ingredients given a tasty tweak by the use of spices and herbs.

    Smoked Spanish paprika should be in every cupboard alongside the nuclear strength hot stuff and, with a lesser kick, the Hungarian sweet version. Paprika is great gear; it gives welcome colour and piquancy to stews, sauces and vegetable braises like ratatouille. Smoked paprika does need to be used with discretion as its flavour is distinctive. The adage “a little goes a long way” holds true – in less than sensitive hands it can be overpowering.

    My vibrant red tin of La Chinata has been in the cupboard for a couple of years, seemingly without losing any of its charm. The only thing that disappoints is that it’s not in the same packaging as its sibling, the tin of hot Spanish paprika purchased as a special gift by a smirking friend. Called “los novios” it features (somewhat extraordinarily in this age of bland and considered marketing) a stylised image of a newlywed couple on the side label with a colour photograph of another couple in evening dress standing in a day-time landscape, holding hands and looking very happy with themselves. That it looks like a scene out of a ‘60s B Grade movie is reinforced by the fact that the sunglass-wearing gent looks rather like a young Jack Nicholson at his sleaziest. I’m reluctant to finish the tin as it gives wry enjoyment every time I want a bit of oomph in something.

    But we want smoked paprika here in a marinade for chicken thighs prior to a quick oven roast. Really fresh, vibrant green olive oil, black pepper and plenty of salt flakes are the only other flavours required to make the chicken particularly tasty. The other dish components are simple enough too – new season potatoes, snow peas and a cherry tomato salad with thyme dressing. Prepare the tomatoes when you’ve marinated the chicken for the flavours to infuse deliciously.

    The Recipe

    Smoked paprika chicken (serves 4)
    6-8 free-range chicken thighs, skin off, trimmed of excess fat and cut in half
    1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
    grindings of black pepper
    1-2 tsp salt flakes
    1 tbsp olive oil
    Place the chicken thighs in a bowl. Sprinkle over the paprika, salt and pepper and add the olive oil. Mix around well and leave to marinate for 10 minutes or longer. Preheat oven to 200C. Spread chicken out in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken juices are just clear. Remove from oven and leave in dish to rest for a few minutes.

    For the tomato salad:
    Cut cherry tomatoes into quarters. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped, fresh thyme. Moisten with olive oil, toss gently and set aside until ready to serve.

    waxy new potatoes, boiled till tender and cut into thick slices
    snow peas, simmered till tender (lid off)

    To serve:
    Arrange slices of hot potato on each plate. Spoon over some of the chicken cooking juices which will have collected in the baking dish. Top with a bundle of snow peas and arrange a couple of pieces of chicken thigh on the top. Moisten with more cooking juice. Arrange the tomato salad in a ring around the outside. Spoon over any salad juices.