Preparing for a long trip can be a lot of work, but I try and make the most of it. You might say I'm a bit of a pack-rat, especially in the kitchen, and a trip is a great excuse to finish off those lingering bags of legumes in the back of the cupboard. I also try to stop shopping for fresh ingredients a few weeks before taking off and delve into the darker reaches of the freezer in search of hidden treasures.
After eating my way through some pork belly and a whole chicken I'd stashed away in the bottom drawer of the freezer, I uncovered a huge lamb shoulder that Lava Lake Lamb had sent me back in December. I was thrilled at the find, but a little worried about whether I'd be able to use it all before the trip.
For those of you that aren't familiar with them, Lava Lake Lamb has a huge ranch in Idaho where they raise some of the best grass-fed lamb you can find in the US. It's tender, well marbled, and doesn't have the gamey funk that turns many people off lamb. I ended up roasting half the shoulder and cut the other half up into cubes, which I used to make this curry.
It looks a bit like the lamb green chili I made last year, but the flavors are very different. It's more curry than chili, but the chili peppers are still the heart of the dish. Along with the cumin, mustard and fenugreek, the jalapenos give this stew a piquant flavor that's made it one of my favorite curries.
If you don't happen to have any lamb on hand, chicken thighs would also work as well. I served this with some saffron basmati with raisins, but it would be delicious with some freshly baked naan.
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder (cut into 1.5" cubes)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon garlic (grated)
- 1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
- 3 onions (sliced thin)
- 6 - 10 jalapeno peppers (seeded and cut lengthwise into quarters)
- ½ teaspoon tamarind concentrate
- cilantro (for garnish)
- Combine the cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle all of it onto the lamb pieces, tossing around to coat evenly. Heat heavy pot with a lid over medium high heat until it is very hot. Add the oil and brown the meat meat on both sides. Work in small batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. You want to get a nice dark brown crust on the outside of the meat as this contributes to the flavor of the sauce. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and set aside.
- Add a little more oil if the pan needs it, then add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and fennel seeds to the pot, stirring for about 30 seconds to lightly toast them. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another minute or so while stirring continuously to prevent burning. Add the onions, then turn down the heat to medium low and cover with a lid for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, and stir vigorously to loosen the bits of flavor from the bottom of the pan. Let most of the accumulated liquid evaporate, then return the lamb to the pot along with any juices. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid and cook over medium low heat for 1 ½ hours.
- Add the jalapenos and tamarind concentrate. Since the capsaicin (the compound that makes chili peppers spicy) is in the light color membranes the seeds are attached to, leaving some of the membranes will make your masala more spicy. partially cover to allow steam to escape, then cook until the lamb is very tender and the sauce is very thick (about 1 to 1.5 more hours).
- Serve with rice and some chopped cilantro to garnish.