Indian food is as diverse as its culture, regions and people. Each region has its own distinct cuisine that may be similar in some aspects and at the same time, completely different from each other. The cuisine of Kerala where my family is originally from relies heavily on seafood, vegetables and coconut. Given the large Christian minority in the state, meat also forms an important part of our food culture more so than any other state in India.
Though I’ve learned the basics of South Indian cooking from my mother who’s an excellent cook, I’ve been looking for ways to expand my repertoire of Indian recipes. I am now pretty comfortable with cooking up a few North Indian dishes as well thanks to my North Indian friends and excellent online resources.
In my quest for new Indian recipes, I chanced upon an Indian cookbook by Atul Kochhar titled, ‘Simple Indian: The Fresh Tastes of India’s New Cuisine’. It’s a collection of recipes from different parts of India and gives a refreshing insight into flavours from various regions of the country. A welcome change from the usual ‘rogan josh’, ‘butter chicken’ type recipes 😉 So far, I’ve tried a few recipes from this book and all have turned out really delicious. The only issue I had with one or two of them was with some of the instructions not being clear enough, especially, with things like the time required to cook something or whether the pan should be left covered or uncovered while cooking, etc. You’ll see what I mean when you read the method for the lamb curry.
I made the ‘Syrian Christian Lamb Curry’ recipe from this book last weekend. It’s a flavoursome curry made with boneless leg of lamb cooked until it’s tender. Apparently, it’s based on a Keralan recipe and the presence of coconut only vouches for it’s authenticity I guess. I’ve made this once before and it was an instant hit with friends, so I decided to make it again and share it here 🙂
It makes a lovely accompaniment to all types of Indian bread. I made rotis or flat Indian bread to go with it. You could use readymade bread to save on time of course 😉
Kerala Style Lamb Curry (adapted from ‘Syrian Christian Lamb Curry’ in Atul Kochhar’s ‘‘Simple Indian: The Fresh Tastes of India’s New Cuisine’)
500g diced boneless leg of lamb
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 star anise
half a cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
50ml white vinegar – I used about 25ml of white wine vinegar
1tsp red chilli powder
2tsp ground coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 medium onion sliced
2-3 garlic cloves sliced
a good piece of ginger sliced
50g fresh coconut thinly sliced – I used the same quantity of dessicated coconut instead
fresh curry leaves – try to get fresh curry leaves from an Asian store if you can, it is worlds apart from the dried ones sold in little jars in many supermarkets
fresh chopped coriander leaves
salt to taste
3-4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
I ended up with about a kilogram of meat as there was nothing smaller available at the butchers. So I doubled all the quantities mentioned above. I left out the curry leaves since I did not have any on hand and used mustard seeds instead in the final seasoning.
Make the spice rub by first grinding all the raw spices together. I coarsely ground the spices using a mortar and pestle. You could also use a blender to do this. Add salt, chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric and vinegar to the spice mix. Combine the meat with the spice paste and set aside.
Heat a heavy based pan. Reserve a little of the sliced onions and curry leaves. Throw in the rest of the onions and curry leaves, garlic, ginger, coconut, and meat with the water and salt. Give it a good stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
I recommend covering the pan with a lid and letting it cook slowly for nearly 2-3 hours. The original recipe asks the meat to be cooked for around 35-40 minutes. However, I know from trying this out that it takes a lot longer for the meat to become really tender. Keep stirring it occasionally and replace the lid. Heat the oil in a separate pan and add the reserved onions and curry leaves to it. Saute it until the onions are soft and golden brown. Add this seasoning to the meat once it’s cooked.
Take the pan off the heat, garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve with warm Indian bread and enjoy!