Friday, March 30, 2012

Lamb with Onions (do piaza)

This is from a book, Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, I've only used a few times as it's only been recently that I've started to get the hang of Indian cooking, both in appreciation and the cooking of it. It's not that I didn't like Indian food, in fact I've always loved the spices and the HEAT! (especially the HEAT!) but it's only now that I'm starting to understand the various types of dishes in the cuisine and getting a feel for combining the flavors inherent to it. Of course it would take another lifetime to live in the culture and eat it everyday as it is such a wide and diverse world of culinary delights but I'm starting to like the dishes from it that I've been making lately.

I tailored this recipe slightly in order to prepare a small dinner for my wife and myself and am writing that version here but I'd recommend checking this or any of Ms. Jaffrey's books if you're also new to cooking in the Indian cuisine and want to get an introduction to it.

Garlic and fresh ginger

Sauteéing the onion slices

Garlic and ginger blended with water

Cinnamon, cardomom pods, and cloves

Lamb chunks from the leg

Cooking the lamb with the spices

Sauteéing the onions in the lamb fat and oil

The final cook with the yogurt

3 large onions peeled - 2 thinly sliced as half-moons, 1 diced - kept separately
6 cloves garlic halved and peeled
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger coarsely chopped
4 cups water
10 tablespoons peanut oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 cinnamon stick
10 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
1 pound lamb leg cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon coriander seed ground
1 tablespoon whole cumin ground
6 tablespoons natural yogurt beaten lightly (I use a Greek one like Fage)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon garam masala

The basic premise is to sauteé the onion rings until dark and deeply caramelized, then sear the lamb chunks with the spices, then cook the diced onion in that oil finally braising everything in a sauce with the pan covered for about an hour.

Prepare the garlic and ginger by blending with 1/2 cup of the water to a paste and put aside. 
Add the oil to a wide heavy pan (I used a 14-inch iron skillet) and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the half-moon onion slices and frying until deeply caramelized, stirring often, but making sure not to burn them. Remove the cooked slices with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.
Into the skillet with the remaining oil add the cardamom pods and cloves to cook over the medium-high heat for a few seconds then add in half of the lamb chunks to sear. Turn the chunks while cooking in order to brown all sides without completely cooking through. Remove from the skillet with the slotted spoon to set aside in its own bowl and cook the second half of the chunks in the same manner, setting aside with the first half when done.
Add the diced onion to the skillet to cook in the remaining oil with the spices until fairly well-browned. Stir in the prepared garlic and ginger paste, cooking to allow the liquid to boil away. Reduce the heat to medium and add the ground coriander and cumin to cook for about 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the beaten yogurt to combine into the ingredients in the skillet. Once it is incorporated, add one more tablespoon and continue in like manner until all of the yogurt has become part of the sauce.
Once the sauce is coming together, add back all of the lamb chunks that have been set aside and any accumulated juices from the bowl into the skillet along with the remaining 3 1/2 cups of water, the cayenne and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, tunr the heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes. Just prior to serving add in the cooked sliced onions that had been set aside at the beginning along with the garam masala to cook and heat uncovered for a few minutes.
You can then remove from heat and allow to sit for a few minutes longer if you like.
A very nice dish that is great as make-ahead or as a leftover for a meal on a second night. I love to add various chutneys, Indian relishes and pickles on the side along with some nice garlic naan and basmati rice. (the photo shows with brown rice which is ok but the basmati seems to go with this a lot better) Yum!

Served with brown rice

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

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