Lately it seems as though I've been making food for large groups of people, finger foods for awards night, buffets for birthday parties. I just couldn't do anymore big crowd feeds. I was done for a while with racing around between steaming bamboo cookers and trays of samosas. I was having parties but barely getting out of the kitchen. I still wanted to cook, I just wanted to be able to sit down at the table with a manageable number of guests and actually enjoy myself for once. So I resolved (sort of a belated new Years Resolution) to have a series of small dinners, especially small dinners where big parts of the meal could be made ahead of time. Thus, the Goat Korma feast.
One of my good friends here in Sonoma, and my cooking mentor/godmother/kitchen role model is Paula Wolfert. Paula is the one who got me started cooking in clay 6 years ago. She gave me my very first clay pots and showed me how to cure and use them. Paula and her husband novelist Bill Bayer are part of our group of usual suspects here in town and we always love hanging out over a long leisurely lunch. About a week ago Bill had to be out of town and I decided it would be great to cook for Paula while he was away. What made it double great was the fact that her son Nick would be visiting during that time and we really wanted the opportunity to visit with another fellow LA/Sonoma transplant. Throw in our usual taste tester Mr. X and I now had my feasters.
Lamb, or Goat Korma is a standard Indian restaurant dish. If you've ever eaten at an Indian restaurant, most likely there's been Korma on the menu. It's curry dish served in a mild almond sauce made with cream, yogurt and sometimes even coconut milk for the lactose intolerant. It can be made with lamb, goat, chicken or game and there is even a vegetarian version which I will be getting to soon. I make my Korma with meat on the bone. I feel it adds a lot more flavor and also what I look for is falling off the bone tender.
Any Korma starts with the meat being seared to brown it and seal in the juices. It's then slowly cooked dum style, that is slowly, in a sealed pot. I cook mine in clay. It can also be made in the infamous slow cooker, aka the "Crock Pot." That's where the cook-ahead part comes in, so you can wake up the morning of your dinner party and say, "well that's done." Always a good feeling.
Korma is also a showy, fancy pants dish. Since it originated with the cooking of the Royal Court in Persia then migrated to India with the Mughals, this is not your grandpa's lamb stew.. Korma is an event meal, special guests, royal weddings, birthdays you get the picture. Hell, just think up a celebration and Korma's your dish, which is why I chose to cook it for Paula. I made my Korma with goat, but the recipe works the same with lamb.
Royal Lamb or Goat Korma
Here's What You Need:
4 lbs of lamb or goat shoulder, bone in (have the butcher cut the leg with the bone into slices) If you're using boneless meat you'll need about 2 lbs.)
8 large shallots
A 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped
5 Tbs of blanched almond slivers
1 cup of water
4 Tbs of coconut oil or vegetable oil
10 whole green cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
A 1 inch long stick of cinnamon
2 brown onions finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili or 1/4 tsp cayenne mixed with 1/4 tsp paprika
Salt to taste
1 and 1/4 cups of heavy cream, or yogurt, or coconut milk.
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds
1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
Here's What To Do:
Put the 5 Tbs of slivered almonds, shallots, ginger, and 6 Tbs of water into a blender. Blend it into a paste and set it aside.
Heat the vegetable or coconut oil in a large pot, and when it's hot add in the pieces of meat.
Place the meat in 1 layer across the surface of the pot and sear it until it's browned on all sides. You may have to do the meat in batches. When it's done take it out, and set it aside.
Since I was cooking in clay, I then transferred the oil from the pot (after cooling it quite a bit to avoid cracking the clay) to my clay pot.
Put the cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon stick into the hot oil the meat was browning in.
Stir them around, in a few seconds the spices will start to swell up and get fragrant.
Add in the onions.
Stir fry the onions until they are a light brown.
Turn down the heat to the medium range and add in the paste from the blender.
Cook the paste for about 4 minutes then add in the coriander, cumin and chili.
Stir fry the spices a bit, about 3 minutes or so.
Add in the meat pieces, and any juices, salt, cream, 1/2 cup of water.
Bring everything to a boil.
Once it's boiling, turn it all down to low and simmer everything with the lid on the pot.
Now, most recipes say you should cook this for an hour or so until the meat is tender. Stir it often and make sure nothing is sticking. I cook my korma in clay I simmer it for about 5 hours on a very low heat, just as one would cook something in a crock pot. I check it occasionally, and once it's in the simmer stage it's really no trouble.
When the korma is done transfer it to a Pyrex bowl and stick it in the fridge for overnight storage. The day of the dinner party, take it out, skim any fat that's accumulated from the top and slowly reheat it.
When cooking in clay I just keep it on a back burner of the stove on a low temperature for another 3 to 4 hours while everything else is cooking. This results in very tender falling off the bone meat.
Just before serving the Korma, stir in 1/4 tsp of garam masala.
Sprinkle the top of the dish with chopped cilantro and the thinly sliced almonds.
I served this goat korma with a rice cooked with whole spices and fried onions, Spinach and Corn , a mango coconut salad, watercress and shallot salad, a salad of thinly sliced mooli (Daikon radish) and an onion, tomato and cucumber salad. So, one hot entree, accompanied by rice, a hot vegetable dish, and a variety of small fresh salad bowls. Of course there had to be chapattis. What's a dinner without chapattis? That gave me a chance to break out the Rotito Rolling Board the nice people at GitaDini sent me a while back.
It's got a place for everything (box for flour, hole to stash the rolling pin, easy to clean surface) and everything in its' place. I love this thing!
A good thing for me since I consider myself a very messy cook and usually need to be hosed down before I'm allowed at table with my guests. By the end of my cooking "process" it usually looks as though I've been fighting raccoons.
Here I am screaming to take away the camera. Paula, who is neat and clean is highly amused. I meanwhile am waiting for some kitchen maven to make a designer drop cloth//hostess gown that I can wear while entertaining. You hear me Snuggie People?? There's a market out there.
I've had some requests for the actual Chicken version of my Cauliflower cooked like a chicken dish. That will be coming up along with lots and lots of vegetarian dishes since spring is here in Sonoma and our Tuesday night Farmers Market opens next week. Can't wait. There will also be granitas as it's getting hot here in Sonoma.. Meanwhile, follow along on Twitter at @kathygori.