The Husband made it home from the States yesterday morning after what appears to have been a horrendous flight back from Florida, and was then treated to some additional ‘downtime’ due to the inability of Gatwick ground crew to remove the plane’s baggage and transfer it to the baggage reclaim hall with anything resembling efficiency. The children, of course, threw themselves upon him as he walked through the door, and he acquitted himself well in the role of returning father and husband, but I could see that he was a bit desperate. He’s usually pretty good at pushing on through the general jet lag/travel fatigue thing, but I wasn’t so sure yesterday, and it wasn’t long before he whispered that he thought he was going to have to go back to bed.
Womanfully, I took the kids off to town to do the boring chores that I save up over a few weeks – some birthday presents, a new pair of trainers for Pink (having grown 2 sizes over the summer, the weather is now such that she really does need to have something other than crocs to wear), Blue’s specs needed tightening up...
I was a bit concerned that my plans for dinner were somewhat ambitious. I adore curry and am trying to take the slowly, slowly approach to introduce it to the kids. Nothing overly spiced or too hot; mainly chicken – you get the idea. In our little Hampshire village there are not one but two excellent curry houses. We don’t eat out very often, or get takeaway, but when we do, these establishments provide a great treat. We visited one the evening we got back from our trip to France earlier in the summer. Blue decided to branch away from the mild chicken dish that we’ve ordered for the kids in the past, and went for a Lamb Tikka Masala which he pronounced to be utterly delicious.
Keen to build on this, I have been talking the kids up to having a ‘curry feast’ one weekend, and had decided that the Husband’s return would be a fitting occasion. Nigella has a chicken curry in Feast which I have made before when we’ve had people round – a lovely creamy, mild dish, and I noticed a Lorraine Pascale lamb curry in the back of the October Good Food, so I thought that would be a good move on from the Tikka Masala for Blue. Add to that the Dahl from Veg Everyday which has become a regular feature here, a pile of poppudams and some of Gita’s finest chutneys (mango, lime and chilli) and Bob, as they say...
Well, it’s never that easy. I hadn't done anything earlier in the day. My mum called just as I was sorting myself out, with issues about knitting wool and Christmas, and advising of the imminent arrival of Nigellissima, and I got a little flustered. The chicken appeared to still be a little bit frozen, some spices burnt, and then, half way through the instructions for the lamb dish (and already half way through cooking it), the recipe in the magazine seemed to just stop: “Brown the meat all over for 2-3 minutes, stirring often so nothing catches on the bottom.” And then silence. Nothing more about the lamb until it got to the bit where you served it with the rice. It just didn't feel right. Aaaaargh.
Still, not to worry. I was confident that the lamb I’d bought was pretty good quality and would stand up to a little off piste action, so with the aid of some tomatoes and a little more water, the dish was saved. Pretty delicious too – because the addition of the tomatoes and water and extra cooking created a spicy aromatic sauce that, in my humble opinion, saved the dish from being a little on the dry side. And everybody loved it.
A little bit spicy lamb curry with coconut rice
For the lamb: vegetable oil, 5 cardomom pods, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp grd cumin, 1 tsp mild chilli powder (you can use medium or hot to taste) 1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced, 500g lamb leg pieces (or another cut that will stand reasonably quick cooking without gong tough) cut into bite size pieces, 3 large tomatoes, quartered
For the rice: 350g basmati rice, 400ml coconut milk, 100g sundried tomatoes, handful of coriander, finely chopped, 25g flaked almonds, knob of butter
Drizzle a little of the vegetable oil (no more than a dessert spoonful) into a pan over a medium heat. Bash the cardamom pods in a pestle & mortar (or with a rolling pin etc) to open the pods, add to the pan along with the ground spices and cook for 3-4 minutes, giving it the occasional stir. Turn the heat up, add a little more oil, then tip in the spring onions and lamb, and cook for a further 2-3 minutes to brown the lamb. Add the chopped tomatoes and some water – start with 100ml, stir and leave to simmer for 5 mins or so, on a gentle heat and see what it looks like – you may want to add a little more water, but remember that as the tomatoes cook down they will add liquid. Continue to simmer gently while you cook the rice.
Put the rice in a pan which has a good fitting lid, along with the coconut milk and 100ml of water. Put the lid on, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat as low as it will go and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Try and resist the urge to stir it. If you are worried about it burning, try and leave it at least 8 minutes before checking, then check again at 10 mins etc. Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan and chop up the sundried tomatoes. When the rice is cooked, stir in the sundried tomatoes and chopped coriander, taste and season if necessary, then drop in a knob of butter and put the lid back on for a couple of minutes.
Serve the lamb with the rice, with the flaked almonds sprinkled on top.