Saturday, January 8, 2011

When You Can't Get Your Goat... Try Lamb.

    Last year for Alan's birthday bash, I managed to get me a goat. Actually, Paula Wolfert turned me on to the guys peddling goat at our local organic farmers market. We both ordered a shoulder of goat. Easy. This year I had thought of giving the Nanny Stew another try, but the goat people were not around, so I decided I'd do something with some of the wonderful local lamb we have here in Sonoma. Even though the food is Indian around our house, it's all about the local... most of the time.
    Lucky me, living in Sonoma where I have access to Sonoma Direct local organic sustainable lamb from right over the hill in Petaluma. I was looking to use this lamb in a dish that I hadn't tried before, and since I was focusing the meal on the food of Rajasthan I thought a nice Rajasthani Lamb Curry would do the trick.
    I have an old Indian cookbook... from India. It reminds me of my great grandmothers' Native Daughters of the Golden West Cookbook from 100 years ago in that not everything is totally laid out. The people who wrote these books expected the reader to be familiar with all sorts of things in the kitchen, and as for measurements and temperatures, they can be a little bit vague. A hot fire, a couple of pounds of meat, a pinch of this a fistful of that and voila! Dinner is served. How much clearer does one have to be???
   And whether Beulah Coombs in my Great Grandmother's book is telling me to only boil a chicken if it's old... (How do I know? Ask for it's drivers license? Look at it? What if the chicken has had "work" done?)  ...or if Belli Ram in my  Indian cookbook is telling me to Bhunno (saute) till I put the meat on Dum... who am I to argue? These cooks figure whoever is looking at the recipe knows how to do this and no further explanations are needed.
   In fact when I first started cooking, I cooked with my great grandmother's book. I think it's why I still love traditional recipes and traditional cooking methods. It makes the whole process a bit of a mystery, with a hopefully happy ending. Which is what I set out to get when I cooked Safed Maas for Alan's birthday bash.
    The literal translation of the name is "white meat" and that is because the sauce is composed of ground almonds and coconut and yogurt and a bit of cream. It's what is known as a "white curry." This dish can actually be made in about an hour, however, not to do anything the easy way, I decided to cook it slowly in clay the day before and let the flavors mellow overnight. It's very old skool but hey, that's the way I roll. Just know that the dish is perfectly fine cooked in a regular pan in a bit over an hour.

Lamb Curry

Here's how to make it:

This recipe serves four. I doubled it for a dinner for 8.
 Cut 2 lbs of boned lamb leg into 1 inch pieces
put them into a large pot ( I used clay) along with:
1 tsp of salt
 6 1/4 cups of water.
 Bring the water to a boil, and boil the meat for 5 minutes. This will blanch it.
 Take the meat out of the pot, drain it and rinse it with cool water. Set it aside.
Now assemble your ingredients.
  In a large pot heat 2/3 cup of unsalted butter
 Toss in:
 the blanched lamb
 2 Tbs of thinly julienned ginger
1 cup of plain yogurt mixed with 1 tsp of white pepper
1 tsp of salt
3 and 1/3 cups of water
 Bring all of this to a simmer and cover the pot. Stir it occasionally and cook it until the lamb is nice and tender and 4/5 of the liquid is gone. This may take about an hour. I cooked in clay at a low temperature and so simmered my meat for about 3 hours.

 Meanwhile preheat the oven to 275.
 In a blender or food processor make a paste of:
 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
 1/3 cup of grated coconut
 4 stemmed, de-seeded and split down the middle green chiles.
 Grind all of this into a fine paste.
 Add the paste into the lamb dish.
 stir it around for about 2 minutes.
 Sprinkle in about 1/2 tsp of cardamom powder.
 Just before serving add in:
 1/2 cup of cream...
 1 Tbs of lemon juice
 1 Tbs of rosewater
   I then moved the lamb from my clay pot on the stove-top to an oven-going Bram from of course Bram Cookware here in Sonoma (big news, Bram just made the Saveur 100!)
   I sealed the Bram because I was now going into Dum (steaming) mode. In the old days the pot would be sealed with a salt bread dough ring so it would be air tight. Paula warned me however that working with clay, sealing with dough I might risk shattering a pot, so I always seal my clay pots by crimping a sheet of foil across the top and then put a lid on top of that.
 Pop the bram into the oven for about 15 minutes.
  Open the top check the seasoning, and enjoy.
 This lamb dish is mild and aromatic, rich with cream and ghee. I don't usually cook with cream and  this much butter, as I originally started cooking Indian food over 20 years ago for health reasons... But for a special occasion, and or if you have guests who aren't that familiar with Indian food it's a great introduction.
  And so the Goat of Alans' zodiac got swapped out for the Rajasthani lamb and a wonderful birthday was had by all. Coming up next,  after holiday vegetables rule!


  1. I have substituted lamb for goat myself. Not that I have "issues" with goat. I spent many of my childhood summers in a house in the Caribbean and we ate goat often. It's also not because I can't get it. I live in Los Angeles. We can get anything. It's just that lamb brings just the right quality to so many recipes like this. GREG

  2. Lucky, lucky man. Not easy to get goat around here!

  3. This sounds great! I've only ever had ground lamb. Even if you don't cook with cream or ghee that much, a splurge once and a while is delicious and worth it.

  4. We eat lamb at least once a week. I guess growing up in Australia, it was just common to eat it. Now, goat is another matter. I don't know if I have ever seen it for sale, although I know there is a large population on the Big Island.

  5. We can goat pretty easily around here but you know how much I love my lamb! As a matter of fact I am toying with the idea of a mutton tattoo from an old butcher chart. No joke.

  6. It's baffling to me that most of the world uses goat meat as a standard source of protein and it's hard to get your hands on in the US! This dish looks utterly amazing!

  7. lamb, goat, bring it on - this dish looks like its right up my alley - I grew up eating both goat and lamb raised on our small farm in New Mexico and I miss that grass and grain fed goodness.



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