January 18, 2011

Cardamom Lamb Curry

It's been cold and dreary lately, and that sort of weather often puts me in a curry mood.  Looking through my Indian spices, I decided to make a curry based around cardamom.  Cardamom has a unique flavor and a delicious, aromatic fragrance.  It's often used to spice sweet dishes, but I wanted to see how it would go with a savory lamb curry.

As happens, cardamom worked quite well in this recipe.  The lamb was tender and flavorful, but the strong cardamom presence - due to partially crushing several green cardamom pods and cooking them with the lamb, then sprinkling the dish with powdered cardamom right before serving - elevated what would otherwise have been a fairly ordinary lamb curry into something special. 

Curries have a reputation for being hot and spicy.  That reputation fits a lot of curries - vindaloo dishes, for example - but curries are really more about flavor than heat.  This one is pretty mild, but that doesn't keep it from being quite tasty.

Cardamom Lamb Curry

yield = 5-6 servings

1/2         cup chopped, blanched almonds
3            tablespoons vegetable oil
2            medium white onions
4            serrano chilis, seeded and minced
9            green cardamom pods, bruised
1            teaspoon ground cumin
1/2         teaspoon ground coriander
2            pounds lean lamb chunks
1            cup plain yogurt
2            cups water
1            cup frozen peas
4            tablespoons cream
1            teaspoon salt
1            teaspoon cardamom powder

Use spice grinder to grind almonds into a fine powder, then mix with 5 tablespoons water to make a thick paste.  Set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden brown, about 7 minutes.  Add chilis, cardamom pods, cumin and coriander and cook for 1 minute, then add lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.  

Stir in the yogurt and cook 5 minutes.  Add the almond paste and water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover partway and cook for about 50 minutes or until the lamb is tender.  Stir occasionally, and add in a few tablespoons of water as needed if the mixture starts to stick. 

Stir in the peas and cream and simmer for five minutes, then add salt to taste.  Sprinkle with cardamom powder and serve with basmati rice and naan.

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