What would you do when you have promise to cook Kambing Kurma (Indian style mutton curry) for dinner but its one of those days when you are not in the mood for fiddly food preparation like peeling and chopping a big pile of shallot and garlic and ginger and onion and chilli? That person being me, I would find another curry that does not require peeling and chopping a big pile of shallot and garlic and ginger and onion and chilli.
Its funny how the brain works in associating different things, or maybe it is just my brain. On that same "too lazy to cook Kambing Kurma" day, I came across this article saying that Anthony Bourdain's new book, Les Halles Cookbook, is set to become the first cookbook banned in American public libraries due to profane language. One reviewer mentioned that in the book, "Bourdain is generous with his being clear about the people and institutions to whom he owes his culinary skill, with special mention being given to Jacques Pepin."
The mention of Pepin whom by the way also has a new book "Fast Food My Way" reminded me of the curry of lamb recipe in another book of his. That recipe had left an impression because when I first saw it, I was rather skeptical about the taste. Bananas? Apples? In a curry!
With 1 kilogram of defrosted meat, I was getting desparate so I decided to get past my prejudices and use the recipe with some tweakings. I did not use lamb because I did not have lamb, I had kambing. Many people have the misconception that kambing is mutton but in South East Asia, what we call mutton is not meat from a sheep but a goat. I prefer kambing when it comes to cooking red meat curry. It's taste does not get overwhelm by the heavy spices as it is gamier than lamb. Goat's meat also has a tougher texture which takes to long stewing time better than the tender lamb. At USD7, fresh kambing is more economical than air flown Australian lamb that cost at least USD18 a kilogram.
Curry of Lamb
adapted from Jacques Pepin's Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine by Jacques Pepin
1 tablespoon butter
1 kg lamb/ mutton/ kambing (goat) lean meat from the leg, cut into 2 cm to 4cm pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium Granny Smith or similar green apples, left unpeeled, cored and cut into 1 cm pieces
1 medium Cavendish banana, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ cup water
Marinade for the meat:
¼ cup curry powder for meat
1½ teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon allspice powder
Marinade the meat for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
Use a sturdy pot with a lid. Heat the butter in pot. When hot, add the meat in one layer, and brown on all sides over medium to high heat for about 10 minutes.
Add onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then add water and remaining ingredients, mix them well. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to very low and cook for at least 1½ hours, until the meat is tender and the liquid very much reduced. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Remove and discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or mint. Serve on rice or crusty bread accompanied by chutney or cucmber yogurt salad.
Everybody liked the curry, even my very critical father with the ultra conservative palate. The apples, bananas and onion had caramelized nicely into a thick gravy which was spicy and sweet. The meat was tender and thoroughly flavoured. The dish reminded me of a fruity beef rendang even though the ingridients used are quite different.
The only sour note came from the red wine we had that night. The 1994 Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva tasted horrible with the curry. Where's the "fruit flavors of cherry, plum and raspberry complemented by oak notes of grilled nuts and cinnamon"? Whatever that means. All I can taste is harsh acidity. It was so bad I could not finish my glass of wine. My parents gave the Rioja another chance the next day and told me the wine tasted great on its own. I guess it is true when the experts say wine does not go well with curry. Next time I will just have an ice cold beer.