I’ve exhausted most of my British crime shows and moved on to France and the Scandinavian ones on Netflix. This is what happens when you take a week off to recover from a long trip across the globe and then from falling ill. Current favorites include: The Witness, Border Town and the Break.
Between being ill and the cold rain, I’ve been using hot stews and soups for recovery. There was a chicken corn chowder day, a day for dal over a bowl of steaming rice, a cabbage broth and some bone broth. Of course, there was a chicken curry day too (check out this story I wrote at the San Francisco Chronicle on the origins of curry). I also made one version of dal ghosht with chana dal!
“Dal ghosht” roughly translates to “lentil and mutton curry” and I sometimes refer to it as lamb and dal curry because mutton is not easy to find in America (lamb works just as well). This is one of my favorite stews to cook when the weather starts to get cold. You don’t need much to go with it, perhaps some toasted bread or flatbread or rice and some pickled vegetables and plain yogurt. There are a few different versions of this stew and I make a couple of different varieties, here’s one of them that is a little more traditional with chana dal (split yellow pigeon peas – from the chickpea family). [The no.1 is a hint that there’ll be more versions in the future 😉 ]
You can easily adapt this recipe to the Instant Pot or an electric pressure cooker. Just adjust the final pressure cooking time according to the manufacturer’s instructions for what’s recommended for lamb. You want the lamb to be tender enough that it falls apart when a fork touches it.
lamb and lentil curry no.1
yields: 6 to 8 servings
1 cup [90g] yellow split pigeon peas (chana dal)
2 lbs lamb stew meat or shanks [910g]( you can use half with bone and half deboned and cut into 1-inch [2.5 cm] cubes or just use boneless, the bone adds a bit more flavor)
4 large [each about 250g] white onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup [60ml] neutral tasting oil like grapeseed
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cloves, ground
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
Clean the split pigeon peas and soak them in enough water to cover them by an inch [2.5cm]for 1 hour.
In the mean time, peel the onions. Dice one onion and cut the rest into half rings. Place the one chopped onion it in a blender along with ginger, garlic and 1/2 cup [120ml] water. Blend on high speed until smooth and keep aside until ready to use.
Heat 1/4 cup [60ml]oil in a medium-saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced onions and sauté until they turn dark brown, about 12 minutes. Remove and transfer the onions to a platter lined with absorbent paper towels to absorb the excess fat.
Pat the lamb pieces dry with a clean paper towel and add them to the same saucepan on medium-high heat and sear the meat until well browned for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the lamb and transfer to a plate. Leave any fat that is left behind in the saucepan.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onion-ginger-garlic-puree to the pan and continue to cook for 10 to 12 minutes with occasional stirring. Add all the coriander, cumin, turmeric, mace, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and cayenne and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes with constant stirring until the fat starts to separate and you get a thick paste. Drain the lentils, discard the soaking water, and add the lentils to the paste in the saucepan, followed by the browned meat pieces and any juices that might have been released. Add 2 cups [480ml] of water, raise the heat to high and bring the contents to a rolling boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a heavy lid and cook for 1 hour with occasional stirring to prevent burning. Add the browned onions, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. The meat should be tender when done. Stir in the lime juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot or warm with plain rice, flatbread or bread and a little plain unsweetened yogurt.