“I’m a mild-mannered man.” Or so said one of my Holy Ghost Father teachers before knocking seven levels of hell out of us with a stiff black leather. Primary school education back in 1960’s Ireland was not what it is today. I well remember a dozen of us being punished for cycling in the yard after school. The punishment was “six of the best”, with the leather, on each hand. I was moved for my secondary education to the Christian Brothers in Monkstown. That is another oxymoronic story altogether and probably has no place here, not today anyway. So, with mild manners in mind, here’s a delicious recipe for Mild Lamb and Aubergine Curry. Just like that Holy Ghost father, it too has the appearance of mildness yet packs a bit of a punch.
The key to developing a good flavour hit in a curry is to build layers of flavour. It is not about heat. Many of the hot curry brigade disguise poor method behind an excess of chili heat. So often, one sees ingredients thrown into recipes willy-nilly with no thought to the reason for them being there, except to make one sweat (as we young ‘uns sweated waiting for the beating by the man of God).
The ingredients list struck me (there’s a joke in there) as being pretty similar to a lamb curry I cooked a couple of years ago. That recipe has a bit more heat and a very different flavour profile. Proof, if one needs it that there are as many curry recipes as one has had hot dinners. There is a link to that post here, if you are interested.
Ingredients for Mild Lamb and Aubergine Curry
- 1 kilo of lamb pieces (neck, ideally)
- Half a kilo of minced lamb
- 2 chilis
- 2 aubergines
- 3 red onions
- Half a litre of good chicken stock
- 2 cans of coconut milk
- 5cm piece of ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 heaped tablespoon of large sultanas
- 1 tin of bijoux vert lentils
- 1 tin of adzuki beans
- 1 tablespoon of garam marsala
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric
- 2 teaspoons of chili powder
- 2 teaspoons of cumin
- 2 teaspoons of cardamom pods
- 100 grammes of spinach
Despite the lengthy ingredients list, this recipe is more about timing than any particular culinary skill. The first thing to do is to add a little oil to a casserole dish and brown the lamb in batches.
While the meat is browning, slice the onions into eights. Slice the aubergines and place them on a wire rack. Sprinkle with salt to remove some of the liquid and intensify the flavour.
Slice and mince the ginger and garlic together into as near a paste as possible. Pod the cardamom. Dry fry the cumin until dark brown. Grind to a dust. When the meat is browned, sweat the onions down over a low heat.
This will lift any bits of stuck meat from the casserole and capture the flavour. When the onions are reduced to almost translucent, spoon them out and reserve. Add the garlic/ginger paste and stir until the paste has taken on a nice golden colour. Next, turn to medium heat and add all the spices bar the fresh chilis. Stir, adding a little water if they start to stick. Fry until they release their huge aroma and are almost stuck to the bottom of the casserole.
Add back the lamb and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Keep stirring until everything is well coated. Split the chilis lengthways and add to the casserole.
Cook, stirring constantly for about ten minutes. Add back the onions. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk and sultanas.
Stir well and place in a 160ºC oven for an hour. Add the pulses. Pat dry the aubergines. Slice into cubes and add to the curry.
Stir to incorporate. Cover and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. The curry is all but ready. Add the spinach and stir to incorporate just before serving with some basmati rice and a nice cold beer.
This curry is reflective of some of my own characteristics, mellow, delicate and smooth. It also has numerous layers of delicious flavours. Just like a decent education, it had the layers added one at a time. You can’t beat it.