Do you ever have days when all you want to do is hang out in the kitchen & play Suzie Homemaker around the stove? I have them often. Increasingly so in wintertime, when the weather is naff & all I can think about is yummy, warm food in my belly. I normally get completely inspired and carried away with what I’m going to cook for supper that evening, but since I’m cooking for one these days, the dishes I’m bashing out tend to be of the ‘meh’ variety. You know, “Meh. What am I going to cook?”, “Meh. It’s just me.”, “Meh. He’s gone.” So while I’m pulling myself towards myself, I thought I’d share a real goodie – a singleton curry. Good for one lonely soul and easy enough to bulk up for when you have company.
Now you could substitute beef for the lamb if you’re of the crazy non-lamb-eating variety, but honestly think about the Hindu community & how they revere the cow & view it as a sacred animal. That’s something to aspire to! Can you really ever use beef in your curries again? And also, when we’re talking slow-cooked meat, lamb does it sooooo much better.
The trick I learnt from a wonderful Kashmiri gentleman when making curry is that you need to grate your ingredients. Yes, it all sounds rather simple but don’t feel bad, sweet things. We’re all about working smart here, not hard okay? The ginger and the garlic get grated on a fine grate. You should grate the onions and the tomatoes on a bigger grate and make sure you catch all that lovely tomato water mkay? This is how they’re doing it in India, so why do we need to get our fancy-shmancy Global knives out and shave off our fingernails in the process? Nxa!
What you’ll need… (serves 1)
1 pack (400-500g) free-range lamb knuckles
Some seasoned flour
1 tbsp canola or peanut oil
1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into bite-size cubes & roasted until caramelized & soft
¼ cup cooked basmati or jasmine rice (you can toss in some cooked lentils at the end like mine if you like?)
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 tsp chopped coriander
To make the saucy-sauce:
1 All Gold tomato paste sachet (they’re about 80g each)
4 medium fresh tomatoes, (cores & skins removed) grated into a bowl to catch all that liquid
2 large onions, peeled & grated roughly
1 tbsp butter or ghee if you’re that way inclined
2 cups of water
1 tbsp canola or peanut oil
½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp finely grated fresh garlic
½ tsp chilli powder
1 green cardamom pod
1 fresh or dried bay leaf (naturally fresh is better)
1 green chilli, chopped up very fine
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin (if you have a spice grinder or pestle & mortar, get the seeds & crush them yourselves)
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tbsp corn starch for thickening (optional)
Heat the oil for the lamb in a frying pan. Dust your knuckles (no man, the other knuckles) in the seasoned flour & shake any excess off. Transfer the knuckles to the hot pan & ensure the pan is not overcrowded. This is not the London Underground folks. Turn them after a while & brown the other sides until they are looking well tanned. Remove them from the pan & set aside. In a separate saucepan, turn the heat up to medium-high. Once hot, toss in the cardamom pod, fennel seeds & cumin to develop the flavours. Once the spices start popping & giving off glorious aromas, toss in the butter or ghee and the canola/peanut oil. Stir in the grated onions & sauté these until nice and soft – you may do this with the lid on if you are naughty & impatient. Once the onions are soft, add in the garlic, ginger & chilli powder & fry for a further 2 minutes. Chuck in the bay leaf, garam masala, green chilli & salt. Cook this for a further minute or 2. Doesn’t it smell divine?? Mmm…
Stir in the tomato paste, then toss in the browned lamb. Add in the lemon juice, water & grated tomatoes & mix really well. Bring this all to the boil by turning up your heat. Once it’s boiled hard, reduce the heat right down to a gentle simmer, pop the lid on and leave this baby alone for about 1 ½ – 2 hours. Everybody’s hobs are different, so start checking it from the 1 hour mark. You’re looking for gorgeously tender meat, and a sauce that’s starting to thicken slightly.
Once the meat is melting, have a look at the sauce. If you like a more liquid curry sauce, leave it the way it is. Alternatively, if the sauce is too watery for you, you have 2 options (not exactly a democracy, but, um, well, Face the front!). You can either remove the meat & reduce the sauce down to your desired consistency, or you can get your hands on some cornflour & thicken the curry the way Granny used to do. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, so I’d definitely reduce the sauce, but honestly either way will yield the same result.
To finish, stir in the yoghurt and the fresh coriander, as well as the roasted sweet potato. You could use regular potatoes, but seriously where’s the excitement in that? The sweetness also counters the nice burn that this little baby rocks. Not a serious burn like BondJamesBond likes to often do in his shiny new Aston Martin DBS, but it’s also not your mam’s curry-flavoured stew alright? Taste your glorious creation to make sure the seasoning is right.
Your accompaniments to a curry are endless, you can serve it with fragrant long grain rice (not that regular brand that rhymes with shmastic), naan, roti, chapattis, poppadoms and so on… Your sambal opportunities are ridiculously vast too: raita, chopped tomato & onion, chillies, banana, yogurt, chutney, coconut and so on and so forth until the end of the world and they all lived happily ever after Amen!