My friend Melissa Danielle, a lifestyle coached based in Brooklyn, came over my place a couple of weeks ago and brought with her a pound of stewing lamb from Hudson Valley Harvest. (Truth be told, I thought she was bringing over lamb stew… oops.) I wasn’t really planning on cooking for myself, but the meat needed to be cooked since it was already frozen and thawed. I didn’t even have onions in the house! But, I was saved by this Kashmiri lamb stew recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking — because, while I didn’t have any fresh veg in the house, I had 52 jars of spices and a tub of yogurt to work with!
This stew is beautiful in flavor, if not necessarily very exciting to look at. The flavors are warm, aromatic and comforting… perfect for cool autumn evenings. I ate it with plain basmati rice and naan from Whole Foods that I heated in my toaster oven. I did pick up a few vegetables the next day at the Greenmarket and had a tomato, red onion, and cucumber salad (sprinkled with dried mint and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil) as a starter.
green zebra tomatoes, red onions, Persian cucumbers
and a glass of tea
I had to halve the recipe since it called for three pounds of lamb, and I had just over a pound. But, I’ll give the recipe with the original proportions. The only other adjustment I had to make was that I had Greek yogurt — so I used a little less yogurt than called for and thinned it out with a little water so that it would be runny.
Kashmiri Lamb Stew (Kashmiri yakhni)
from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking
Serves 4 to 6
4 teaspoons fennel seed
6 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
pinch of ground asafetida (optional)
3 pounds shoulder of lamb, boned or unboned, cut roughly into 2-inch cubes
1 inch cinnamon stick
10 cardamom pods
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
3 3/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried ginger powder
1 3/4 cups plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
In an electric spice grinder, grind the fennel seeds into a powder and set aside.
Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat. When hot, add the asafetida, if using. One second later, put in all the meat, as well as the cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves, and salt. Stir and cook, uncovered, over high heat for about five minutes or until almost all the water released by the meat disappears and the meat browns very lightly.
Lower the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon water, the fennel, and the ginger. Stir to mix. Add 3 2/3 cups water, cover partially, and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.
Cover completely, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Stir a few times as the meat cooks, adding a few tablespoons of water of it dries out.
Beat the yogurt in a bowl until it is smooth and creamy.
Remove the lid from the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Push the meat to the edges of the pan, leaving a well in the center. Pour the yogurt very slowly into this well, all the while whisking it briskly into the braising liquid. (If you don’t do this, the yogurt will curdle.) Keep whisking for a good five minutes after all the yogurt has been poured in. You should now have a simmering, creamy sauce.
Cover partially and cook on medium-low heat for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle in the garam masala and mix.
A quick note about rhubarb. This week, our CSA fruit share included about 3 pounds of rhubarb from Briermere Farms, and I’ve been contemplating what to do with it. I’ll most likely make a few pints of this delicious Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam from Food 52 that I made last year, but I’m also thinking about savory uses for rhubarb. Rhubarb, in and of itself, isn’t sweet, but it’s most often paired with strawberries in jams, compotes and pies. I found this savory, Indian-inspired recipe for a Rhubarb Lentil Stew last year, and I thought it was brilliant. Usually, I’ll add lemon juice to lentil-based soups and stews to add that bright burst of tartness that balances out the earthy flavor of the legumes. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, the rhubarb provides not only the necessary acidity, but also complex flavor and texture to an already flavorful dish. As with so many of Mark Bittman’s recipes, this one is minimal effort for maximum pleasure. Enjoy!
Combine all ingredients except salt and cilantro in a saucepan and add water to cover by about 1 inch. Cook at a steady simmer until lentils and rhubarb are quite soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cloves and, if you like, cardamom pods. Add salt, then taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
One of my favorite cooking fats is ghee, which is a kind of clarified butter. It’s commonly used in Indian cooking, and it has a “golden” flavor (as described by a West Indian friend of mine). Since the water and milk solids get cooked out, it withstands higher temperatures than butter, has a long shelf life, and is easier to digest for people with dairy sensitivities. It’s really easy to make at home.
from Myra Kornfeld’s The Healthy Hedonist: More Than 200 Delectable Flexitarian Recipes for Relaxed Daily Feasts
1 pound butter, preferably organic
Warm butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it has melted completely, about 5 minutes. The butter will start to gurgle as the water evaporates, and the top will be covered with foam. Simmer uncovered over low heat until the milk solids start to brown on the bottom of the pot, 10 to 15 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes and then frequently after that, by pushing aside the foam and tilting the pan to see if the solids have browned.) As soon as the solids turn brown, remove the pan from the heat and let the residue settle to the bottom. Then carefully pour the clear liquid through a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth into a heat-resistant container. Discard the solids.
Ghee will stay fresh on the kitchen counter 4 to 6 weeks; in the refrigerator for 4 months; and indefinitely in the freezer.