Saturday, March 04, 2017

Cooking Myself Out of a Corner with Julie Sahni

I often get myself into situations where I need to cook myself out of a corner. For instance, this past week I wanted to make some hummus from a recipe my mother collected when she was in Liberia, on the West Coast of Africa (read the post and it'll all become clear). Grabbing a pound of dried chickpeas from Ayers Creek Farm that had been lounging in the cupboard, waiting for just such an occasion, I threw them in a pot of water to soak overnight.

The next day I poured off the soaking water, covered them afresh and set them on the stove to simmer for 90 minutes or so. When they were just toothy to the bite, I rinsed them again and measured out the two cups I needed for the hummus. Which left about four cups of cooked chickpeas staring at me from the strainer.

Chickpeas are the cornerstone of many dishes in India, and I'd been perusing my copy of Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking since making a fantastic chicken tikka masala a few days ago. Using the last of my stash of ground meat from the whole lamb I bought from Jo-Le Farms—such deliciousness—and what I could dig out of the vegetable bin in the fridge, I was able to pull together a crazy good dinner in a little over an hour.

Oh, and when Dave walked in the door from work that evening? His expression and the phrase "Wow! What smells so good?" was all I needed to know that I had a hit on my hands.

Ground Lamb in Cashew Nut Sauce with Chickpeas
Adapted from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 c. onions, chopped fine
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. roasted tomatoes or canned, crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp. cashew nut butter or 4 Tbsp. ground roasted cashews
2 c. cooked chickpeas with 1/2 c. liquid (or water)
2 tsp. garam masala
Cilantro, chopped fine, for garnish

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. When it shimmers, add onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until they turn a caramel brown (about 20-25 min.). Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 min. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, red pepper and bay leaves. Stir briefly, then add ground lamb and brown it, breaking it up with a spoon. When the meat has lost its pink color, add salt, tomatoes, nut butter and chickpeas with 1/2 c. liquid. Add another 1/2 c. of hot water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking. Turn off the heat and stir in the garam masala. Add salt to taste, if needed. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.

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