Remember that old song lyric by Nilsson, "the lime in the coconut"??? In my opinion, there is nothing that doesn't go better with coconut. Lime, more coconut, lamb, whatever. I love my coconut. Maybe it was a lack of Peter Paul Mounds growing up as a kid. My mother doesn't like coconut, therefore none of us liked it either. That's the way she rolls. Growing up and able to buy my own coconuts was a thrill. I won't say it was like getting my drivers' license but it was up there. Yes, I do have a life.
Since I've been stocking up on clay pots I've also been studying up on my Cooking With Indian Masters book, and ran across a wonderful lamb and coconut recipe that I could do in one of my clay pots.
My clay pot fetish has only been getting worse. Last weeks' sale at Bram was like a weekend in Vegas for me. What happens at the clay pot store stays at the clay pot store . I have a lot of new stuff I want to try out. I'm in the process of seasoning my new pots so I made this dish using my Pormaireware pot.
The dish I decided to cook is called Narial Ka Gosht, or Lamb with Coconut scented with fennel. Now any dish that has the words scented in the description has me at scented. I love those floral elements of the Indian kitchen and this dish is a great example of their delicacy.
One other reason I was attracted to this dish was a desire to use some of the Fennel Pollen stash that Paula Wolfert gave me. Paula told me this stuff was great when she handed me the little leather pouch containing the pollen. She was right.
For the uninitiated (which was me a few months ago) this stuff is like gold. It is sprinkling the wild perfume of nature on your food. It is like being a bee!
Fennel pollen is easily available online. Just Google and you'll find a bunch of sources. This dish shows it off to it's best advantage.
Lamb with Coconut is a kadhai dish, that is traditionally cooked in an Indian style wok. Any good deep pan will do, but if you have a clay pot, try this dish in it. You won't regret it.
This dish is my adaptation of a recipe from chef Arvind Saraswat and serves 4 people.
The recipe originally calls for 2 and 1/4 lbs of leg of lamb but I find that when slow cooking in clay, the less expensive and equally delicious shoulder block of lamb chops work beautifully. Have the butcher cut them in pieces for you. Bone in.
Heat 3 Tbls vegetable oil in a kadhai, pan or clay pot and add:
1.) 5 green cardamom pods
2.) 1 black cardamom
3.) 5 whole cloves
4.) One 3 inch stick of cinnamon
5.) 1 bay leaf
6.) A pinch of mace
Stir things up until the spices begin to crackle then stir in
7.) 3 tps of shallot paste
8.) 2 1/3 cups of thinly sliced onions
Saute the onions until they begin to brown slightly than add:
9.) 1 Tbs of finely julienned ginger
10.) 6 slit, seeded and chopped green chilies.
Keep sauteing until the onions darken a bit more and turn a soft golden brown.
Then toss in:
11.) 16 fresh or frozen curry leaves
12.) 4 dried red chilies
13.) 2 and 1/4 cups dried or fresh grated unsweetened coconut. Stir for a minute or so then add:
14.) 1 and 1/2 cups peeled chopped tomatoes ( as I've said before if they're not in season where you are, canned work very well)
Saute a bit more and then add :
15.) 2 1/4 lbs of lamb chunks
Continue to cook them for about 5 minutes browning them a bit , then add:
14.) 3 1/2 cups of water. ( if using clay remember don't shock the pot, use warm water)
Bring the mixture to a boil then turn down the heat, cover and simmer the lamb until it is tender and the liquid is reduced to almost nothing. This should take about an hour. If slow cooking in clay as I did, the dish can simmer for 2 hours or so. Just check to make sure nothing is sticking or burning. I cooked this dish the day before. I let it mellow in a Pyrex dish in the fridge over night, then the next day skimmed the fat off and re-heated it in my clay pot for about a half hour or so.
Just before serving add salt to taste and when the dish is ready:
15.) Sprinkle 1 tsp of fennel pollen over the dish and stir it in.
16.) Scatter 1/4 cup of dried coconut over the dish to garnish, and serve.
This lamb dish smells so good! I served it with a simple raita and chapatti for lunch along with some homemade hot apricot chutney and some fresh pineapple slices.
I like cooking these dishes in clay slowly. I can do other things while they're on the stove simmering and then the next days' meal is just a simple re-heat. They're the great-great-great-great-grand pot of the modern crock pot.
The one piece of clay that I'm lacking is a traditional tava. I have several iron tavas for making chapattis etc. But I was reading about the origin of this cooking implement and evidently the early tavas were made of clay. I've never seen one of these up close and personal and have been looking for one. The closest thing I've seen is a comal made by La Chamba, so if anyone has a clue as to where to get an Indian terra cotta tava, let me know. I've heard they're out there somewhere.
Meanwhile, our early spring has flown and the skies are darkening over Sonoma, more rain ahead. To paraphrase the film Chinatown, "Good for the grapes!".