Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lamb Korma Pulao

* We linked this post at Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop *

Tonight we took a little jaunt to India, via another excellent cookbook called 50 Great Curries Of India.  Indian food is amazing to me -- they have the longest ingredient lists of anything I cook other than barbecue sauce, yet the results are invariably smooth, rich, and perfect on the taste buds.  We like fiery food over here so that probably helps too, though this particular dish is quite mild.  Tonight's menu comes to us from Lucknow -- Lamb Korma Pulao -- and it was delicious:

Lamb Korma Pulao (serves 6-8):
  1. 2 C. basmati rice
  2. 2/3 C. olive oil
  3. 2/3 C. lard  (original recipe calls for 1-1/3 C. oil, but I used half lard)
  4. 4 large (or 6 medium) onions, finely diced
  5. 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
  6. 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  7. 2 jalapenos, chopped (use what you've got -- any hot green pepper)
  8. 5 cloves
  9. 5 cardamom pods
  10. 1 2-inch cinnamon stick broken into bits (I used diagonal cut pliers to do this)
  11. 2-1/4 lb leg of lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes
  12. 1 Tbsp fresh ground coriander powder (grow this in your garden!)
  13. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  14. 1 tsp fresh ground cumin powder (another garden herb!)
  15. 1-1/2 tsp red chile powder
  16. 1/2 tsp mace (recipe calls for "three pieces mace" but I couldn't find it whole)
  17. 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  18. 1/2 C. plain yogurt
  19. 2 tomatoes, chopped
  20. 1 tsp salt

For the rice:
  1. 2 bay leaves
  2. 1 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 1 tsp turmeric (this was missing in the book)
  5. a few strands of saffron, and water to soak them in

Wash the rice and leave it soaking in cold water while you prepare the curry.  I started with a whole bone-in leg of lamb:

Which I eventually managed to butterfly and cube into approximately the right size pieces.  The lamb was actually a little over 5 lbs, so I only used half of it here.  I can feel gyros coming on later in the week....

Get your gigantic, heavy cast iron skillet out for this meal, it makes a lot.  This is my 12 inch skillet, and it was just barely big enough to hold everything.  Heat the oil and lard together, and brown the onion in it.

While the onions are browning, chop up the garlic, chiles, and ginger, and get the cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon ready.  In the picture you can also see the dry spice powder blend.  I use a cheapo coffee grinder to grind my fresh spices and I highly recommend this for anyone who cooks with a lot of fresh spices.  It does a good job, it's super cheap, and it's really fast. 

The cinnamon stick I used was actually tougher than diamonds, so I had to crush it with diagonal cut electrician's pliers.  Fortunately, I had some in the living room...

Add the ginger, chiles, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom pods and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the lamb.  At this point, my procedure diverged from the book because I was kind of winging it from memory.  It came out good, so I'll post my way because I think it was less involved than the real one in the book.  However, I do recommend checking it out in the book, along with some of the other curries in there because every one I've tried so far has been excellent.  Here's the mix of onions, peppers, and some of the spices:

Add in the powdered spices, yogurt, tomatoes, and lamb, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  If my picture looks different from your result, it's because I forgot to add the yogurt and tomatoes until nearly the end.  I'm certain it will be more tender if you add them at the beginning though, so make sure to do it that way.  Also, the book says that the meat will be more deeply flavored if you simmer the lamb in the onion mixture for 10-15 minutes before adding the spices, yogurt, and tomatoes.  I didn't try that but it sounds like it's worth a shot.

If it starts looking too dry, add a little water (1/2 cup or so).  While that's cooking, drain your rice and cook it in an equal volume of water, with the bay leaves, turmeric, and salt.  She gives some detailed instructions about how to make the rice 3/4 cooked and then bake the whole thing to finish it off, but since I currently am without an oven I just cooked the rice completely on the stovetop:

While the rice cooks, soak the saffron in 2 Tbsp water.

When the rice is done, put half of it in the bottom of a nice casserole, layer the lamb curry over the top of that, then put the other half of the rice on top of the lamb.  Sprinkle the saffron water and threads onto the top, decorate with the bay leaves from the rice, and dish it up!  If you have an oven, the author recommends cooking the dish covered in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

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