You may ask “how does a white Florida girl get into cooking Indian food?”  Well, it started with a taste for exotic food and an interest in cooking new things.  One year for a very romantic Valentines day, Daniel gave me an Indian recipe book – “1000 Classic Indian Recipes” by Wendy Hobson. This book is a first go-to for me and I am very happy with it! The first time I made this particular dish, Daniel said “WOW, this is one of the best things I think I have ever put in my mouth.” As flattered as I was, I didn’t make it again for a long time because I didn’t want him to be disappointed!  He doesn’t remember saying it, (I swear he did) but I had another go at it because this dish is really good. Actually, I have made this particular recipe at least four times, each time successfully and we have yet to be disappointed.  This recipe was resurrected for the Dukan Diet because it is one that does not call for a lot of starch or potatoes, in fact, other than reducing the ghee, not a single bit needs changed to be on the diet.  This dish is easily both our favorites and we only wish lamb were cheaper so we could have it more often. The Dukan Diet discourages a lot of lamb consumption because it is higher in fat than some meats but trimmed well and not eaten often, I think it is fine.  As it is, I imagine chicken or beef could be substituted but really, I don’t think it would do it justice.  If you’re making this for yourself, do me a favor and make it the first time around with lamb so you get the full experience.

Some of the ingredients I had never heard of before I began experimenting with Indian foods – ghee, cardamom, asafoetida,and fresh curry leaves.  Ghee is simply clarified butter and you can make it yourself if you have time but I don’t and happily, they sell it by the pint or larger at my Indian grocery. Cardamom comes in a fibrous pod (black or green) that is sometimes used whole in Indian dishes.  Crush it like you would a clove of garlic – just crack it with your palm but leave it intact otherwise.  When you’re eating the dish, you don’t eat the pod – just put it aside. A lot of whole ingredients used in Indian cooking are politely and discretely removed from a dish or from your mouth while eating since they’re too strong or too inedible to be eaten in the end but add a lot of flavor during the cooking process.  Curry leaves are a bitter smelling but pungent herb used in this recipe but can be omitted.  I usually leave them out because unless I know ahead of time that I’m making this dish, I don’t usually keep these on hand.  Don’t ask me what “asafoetida” is.  The description on the container doesn’t explain it either.  It is yellow and it smells. Bad.  I put it in there anyway.   (Wikipedia actually says it is from the root of an herb and its other names include “devil’s dung” and “stinking gum”…I know appetizing right?)  Once it starts cooking though it begins to smell like onion and like I said, we like this dish, even if “devil’s dung” is in it.  Oh, and one other thing – like most Indian dishes, this goes well over rice OR the healthier option – spaghetti squash!

A mess of ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ghee  *use 1/4 cup and cut out some fat/calories
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 2lb lamb, cubed
  • 4-6 oz plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp aniseeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seed
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 cloves
  • 3″ cinnamon stick
  • 6 large black cardamom pods
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves *not a deal-breaker, you can leave this out if you haven’t got any
  • 1 tsp ground saffron (I use whole)
  • salt to taste

The recipe doesn’t SAY to toast and grind the spices but I did this last time – except for the cardamom pods.  It made the sauce darker and not needing to pick out hard bits of spices made it more enjoyable. Once the ghee is heated up, begin to brown the meat in the pan with the asafoetida until the meat is well coated in the yellow and oil.  Add in the yogurt and mix well until it is dissolved into the juices in the pan.  Pour in the boiling water and spices and simmer on low heat for 2 hours uncovered to allow the water to evaporate, stirring occasionally.  There should be a layer of juices/oil/water making a sauce at the bottom of the pan when done and should not be burning or stuck.  If you like more sauce then ether cook a little less longer or add in some water and a dollop of plain yogurt.  So good, so tender, so flavorful.

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