Friday, December 24, 2010

Lamb And Coconut Curry From Kerala's Christian Community

    When people think of India, they automatically think of Hinduism, but the subcontinent is home to many of the world's leading religions, all of which have their own special traditional recipes. In the South, one of those is Christianity, in particular Syrian Christians also known as St. Thomas Christians or Nasrani, who trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.
   So what makes this a "Christian" dish?? It's mainly a matter of dietary laws and restrictions. Many of the dishes introduced by both Christian and Muslim people are different from other dishes in the region because they're non-vegetarian and meat-centric.
   This is a great dish for friends not used to eating Indian food as it's not too hot and features something that almost everyone loves... coconut! It can be dressed up with a lot of vegetable sides, or served as I did with a simple spinach dish, or even plain old chapattis.
   Here's my adaptation of a recipe from Sryrian Christian Chef George K George.

Lamb And Coconut Curry

Cut 1 lb of lamb into one inch sized pieces and set them aside.
Meanwhile gather your spices for grinding.
In a blender or spice grinder mix:
1 tsp of Kashmiri chili powder or 1/2 tsp of cayenne and 1/2 tsp of paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of peppercorns
2 star anise
a 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 cloves
The seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
 3 Tbs of white vinegar
   Blend it well until you have a paste.
   Put the lamb into a heavy skillet or kadhai. I used the Clay Coyote Flameware Skillet that Paula Wolfert gave me... it's all the earthiness of clay and yet it's sturdy as hell.
   Mix in the spice paste you've just ground along with:
 1 medium onion thinly sliced
 2 sliced shallots
  A 1 inch piece of ginger cut into thin strips
 10 curry leaves
2/3 cup of grated coconut
salt to taste
4 Tbs of water (you might need a little but more..eyeball it to make sure)
    Bring the whole thing to a simmer then cook gently for about 45 minutes or until the lamb is as tender as you want it. I have to confess here that I usually cook everything the night before for the flavors to blend and then reheat at a very low temperature on the day I'm serving, but even if you cook and eat this on the same day it'll be just fine.
   Finally, in a separate skillet heat:
 4 Tbs of coconut oil
Saute 2 onions thinly sliced along with another 10 curry leaves.
 Cook the onions until they're nice and brown.
 Add this to the lamb dish when you are ready to serve along with 3 Tbs of fresh chopped cilantro.
  So there you have a dressed down lunch of a dish that would be equally at home on your holiday table with all the accompanying bling.
   Meanwhile, I'm  prepping my Christmas dinner. This year I'll be doing prime rib for the first time and I'll be doing it with a salt crust. Yikes! Alans' birthday is the 29th so we'll be rounding off the year with an Indian Birthday Feast. No goat this year... but something just as good!
    For everyone who's celebrating or has been celebrating this season, may all the best be yours!


  1. I've seen many curries made with coconut milk, but this has got to be the first I've seen that's made with actual grated coconut.
    Sounds delicious, not to mention super-simple to make. Definitely going on my must-try list! Thanks for the introduction to Keralan food. :)

  2. Wish you a merry Christmas Kathy!

  3. Kathy - I always love seeing what you're cooking up. The combination of spices always makes my mouth water. Wishing you and your family a happy new year!


  4. the combination of spices.

  5. Mmmm, that looks fantastic. I've never heard of Christians having dietary restrictions so this is a new one on me. Thanks for sharing the history as well as the dish.

  6. @The Mom Chef..the recipe is one of the Christian ones because there are no dietary restrictions. Many of the other groups either are strictly vegetarian or do not consume pork

  7. Many of the other groups either are strictly vegetarian or do not consume pork..

    In Kerala many christians do not comsume pork too..



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