I've been stuck in a bit of a rut lately. The food has been good over here, yes, but I've been itching for something different. It's been all slow braises and roast vegetables and steaks and roast meats and sautéed greens. I'm not complaining, but when I look at what I was eating one year ago and it's almost identical to what I had two nights ago, I realize it's time to shake things up.
Part of the problem is that being a mother of a two and a half year old means that the days of lazing around finding inspiration in cookbooks and culinary magazines and food blogs are -- at least for now -- long gone. I miss that.
The other issue is that I'm trying to get in tip-top shape. I'm eating more healthily (trying to!), running five times a week and going to boot camp. We're considering another kiddo, and I'd like to start out on better footing this time around, especially since last time I gained 50 pounds! All of that makes being a diverse cook and food blogger somewhat challenging.
Last night, quite accidentally, things took a turn towards the more exotic. I had purchased some ground lamb, knowing that I'd be able to -- flying by the seat of my pants -- whip something up with what I had in the pantry. Skimming through cookbooks, I realized I wasn't really in the mood for the usual meatballs or lamb burgers.
I randomly yanked Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking off the shelf and lo and behold, under the rather unassuming name, Ground Lamb with Tomatoes and Peas, was exactly what I was looking for. And serendipitously I had ever single ingredient on hand. Things are looking up, folks.
I have no idea why I don't cook more Indian food at home. It's a big mistake not to. I was so excited about last night's dinner that I'm up at 6:30 in the morning writing about it. The smell of the onion, garlic and ginger frying in the pan was enough to sell me on the dish, but then add the whole coriander and cumin seed, turmeric, cayenne, and garam masala (finally using my little stash!) and then fresh cilantro. The mix of aromas and flavors was fantastic, with two tablespoons of lemon juice brightening the whole affair brilliantly.
Just a quarter cup of plain yogurt (I used nonfat with no complaints, but whole would probably be even better), one chopped tomato, and a cup of water turn heavily spiced onions into an effortless and impressive Indian sauce for the ground lamb and peas (frozen are fine here). The lamb is a bit soupy, which really appeals to me and just begs to be spooned over a heap of rice.
Feel free to go nuts on the heat in this dish. I used a very scant half teaspoon of cayenne and a smallish fresno chile, because that's what we have growing in the garden right now. The heat was just warming really, not at all over the top. You could easily -- and I think appropriately -- use a serrano or two for those of you (I mean us) who like it really hot.
Plus, Jaffrey isn't kidding when she says quick and easy. The ground lamb with tomatoes and peas requires very little chopping. You can actually whiz the onions, garlic, and ginger in the food processor (slightly more washing up) to obtain the fine chop you need. The rest is sautéing in a pan and then an extended simmer. Make a pot of basmati rice and perhaps one additional vegetable -- if you're compulsive about vegetables like I am -- and dinner is done. I added sliced mango, because it's my favorite and fresh mango and Indian food are made for each other.
Ground Lamb with Tomatoes & Peas
1 small onion (about 4 ounces), peeled and coarsely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 to 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 medium-sized tomato (about 7 ounces), chopped
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/4 pounds ground lamb
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons store-bought garam masala
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 fresh, hot green chili, chopped (do not remove seeds)
6 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
Place the onion, ginger, and garlic into the container of a food processor and pulse until you achieve a fine chop or simply chop the onion, ginger, and garlic finely yourself.
Pour the oil into a wide, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger mixture. Fry, stirring until it is moderately browned. Add the cayenne, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and turmeric, stirring. Add the yogurt and tomato, and adjust the heat to high. Stir frequently until the tomato is soft. Add the lamb, salt, and garam masala. Stir until you have broken up the lumps. Add 1 cup of water. Stir and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice, green chili, cilantro and peas, stirring. Bring to a simmer and cover, cooking over low heat to meld the flavors for an additional 10 minutes.