We’re seven inches behind on rain here in Santa Barbara. Not that I’m complaining…okay, I am a little bit. I love being safe and dry inside while the rain comes down outside, with the house being warmed with the heat from the oven. We had some lovely rain on Easter Sunday morning, but it was gone by afternoon. So the mornings have been a bit grey here, then it clears up around noon to glorious sunshine, I had to give up. Damn it, I’m making a curry anyway.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve got a serious curry addiction. And although there seem to be many Indian people in Santa Barbara, the few Indian restaurants seem to have changed their food to make it more to American tastes. Boo! But let’s be honest—I love cooking it at home whether or not there’s a good curry house down the road.
So with one last pound of ground lamb from Da-Le Ranch, I decided to delve into my wonderfully (and sometimes intimidatingly) large India cookbook by the delightfully named Pushpesh Pant. And I’m so glad I did. This is one of those recipes you can’t wait to make again!
And for those Paleo/gluten-free folks out there, I’ve amended the recipe to suit us perfectly. But I’ll note the changes I made for those who don’t have dairy issues. Vegetarians and vegans, I’d use some chunks of seitan or maybe whip up a recipe of vegan meatballs to throw in to this sauce.
Please be warned—this dish is SPICY. Tone down the chilli powder by at least half if you are not a spicy food lover. The recipe calls for Kashmiri chilli powder and garam masala, but I just used cayenne and regular garam masala and it worked a treat.
This is a great dish for a cold day (especially for my friends in the UK and back East who seem to be having a terribly long winter!), but it worked on a mild spring night in California too.
Serves 2 with a little leftover for lunch
For the meatballs:
1 lb. ground lamb
1 Tbls mustard oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 white onion, grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp. asafoetida diluted in a little water
1 Tbls mayonnaise (he uses yogurt)
1/2 tsp garam masala
(Pant does not add the onions or the ginger to the meatballs. I couldn’t help myself!)
For the sauce:
2 Tbls coconut oil
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp turmeric
6.5 oz. coconut cream (he uses 1 cup plain yogurt)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 star anise
1 tsp sugar
2 cups roughly chopped spinach
First make the kofte, or meatballs, by combining all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and mixing together with your hands. Roll into little 3-inch long football shapes and set aside in the fridge.
Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over high heat, then turn off for 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, and add the cloves, cumin seeds and asafoetida. Stir for 3-4 minutes, then add the cayenne, turmeric and four tablespoons of water. (Be careful—hold your breath as the spices will get into the air and make you cough!)
Stir constantly for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and add the coconut cream. Return to a low heat as you stir constantly, blending the sauce into a reddish brown sauce.
Pour in 500ml (2.25 cups) of water, then add the ginger, star anise, sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to combine, especially if you’re using yogurt. Gently add the meatballs to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Turn meatballs gently during the cooking process to coat with sauce.
Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and keep covered and warm. Add garam masala and spinach to the sauce and let the spinach cook for 2-4 minutes. Reduce to your desired thickness. Return meatballs to pan and stir carefully to coat.
Serve with cauliflower rice (if paleo) or basmati rice. I made my cauliflower rice with ground cumin, 1/2 tsp of turmeric and a tsp of mustard seeds.