I like to have a plan, have all my ingredients lined up and get things done in pretty military fashion. At lest, that’s the aspiration. Sadly, often, the reality involves opening the press during the cooking, shouting some profanity at the empty space and then driving in a panic to the supermarket to get some essential spice or aromatic. This time, it needed to be different. I have been to cookery school (Yes, I have!). I have learned from the experts. I simply have to be able to prepare a Lamb and Aubergine Curry without the use of the car.
I mentioned above that I had been to cookery school. Well, I have and I haven’t. The lovely Lynda Booth who runs the Dublin Cookery School very generously hosted an evening for a bunch of ruly (opposite of unruly) food bloggers. Linda cooks some delicious Indian food. She also has an easy, seemingly instinctive approach to spice blending. This is something I had to emulate. So I decided to prepare a curry using only ‘feel’ on the ingredient quantities. As a result, my list looks like this:
- 1.25 kilos (2.5 lbs) of lamb meat (neck or shoulder are fine)
- 3 onions
- 3 aubergines
- 3 single bulb garlics (or a bulb of regular).
- 5 cm (2″) of ginger
- 100 grammes or so (a bag) of spinach
- half a litre (1 pint) of goat’s yoghurt
- 500 gms (1lb) of chickpeas
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 3 bay leafs
- 3 teaspoons of fennel seeds
- 1.5 teaspoons of each: mace, cardamom (after taking out of pods), mustard seed, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, chili powder and turmeric
Side note on process: I did not follow any recipe. I just did what seemed right at each stage of the cooking. It worked, so now it is a recipe!
Brown the lamb meat in a casserole (Dutch oven).
Slice the onions, garlic and ginger. Turn your oven on to 200ºC (390ºF).
When the meat is browned, remove and add the onions, Stir for a few minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. This prevents the danger of the garlic and ginger burning and making the dish bitter.
While this is going on, dry fry the cumin and fennel seeds until they are aromatic.
Add all the spices that need grinding to the mortar and apply the pestle until they are ground reasonably fine.
Don’t overdo it. It’s nice to have little bits of pepper and seed in the dish.
When the onions have softened, add back the meat and any juices. Add the spices and stir to incorporate keep stirring for a good 5 minutes while the spices infuse the meat.
Then add the tomatoes.
Add the yoghurt and stir to incorporate. Next slice and add the aubergine. Stir to incorporate.
Pop this, covered, into the heated oven. Leave it there for an hour. Then remove the lid and stir in both the chickpeas and the spinach. Return it to the oven for 10 minutes. Assemble your diners and serve straight from the pot with Basmati rice and a nice bit of chutney on the side.
I really enjoyed this. It’s not some generations-old ‘authentic’ Indian recipe. I thought about flavour and I used a balance of ingredients that just seemed to be right. The result was fantastic. The inspiration came from my night in cookery school. Thanks Lynda!