Thursday, October 30, 2014

Saag Gosht: Indian Lamb & Spinach Curry with Yogurt

Saag Gosht is a tender and delicious Lamb and Spinach Curry that originates from the northwest region of India. A well-loved dish from the greater Punjab area of India and Pakistan, Punjabi cuisine is known for its diversity, and varies regionally by the agriculture and farming lifestyle that's been prevalent throughout the area for centuries, where the men are mainly farmers and obtain their ingredients fresh from the fields. 'Saag' typically refers to mustard greens, and 'Gosht' tends to mean goat meat, however many recipes also feature leafy green spinach, or 'Palak', and boneless leg or shoulder of lamb cut up into large bite-size pieces. Browned with onions, an aromatic mixture of whole and ground spices, chopped ginger, garlic and dollops of plain yogurt, the lamb is slowly simmered for up to 2 hours then combined with chopped blanched leaves of fresh spinach and finished with a spoonful of ghee. A lovely, earthy dish with a mild and subtle flavour, it's not surprising that this luscious Lamb and Spinach Curry is considered one of the great curries of India.

2 pounds of stewing lamb cut into generous 1-inch cubes

The pieces of lamb are cooked in oil over low heat until browned on all sides

One large onion peeled and finely chopped

The onions are sautéed with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods...

...homegrown bay leaves until the onions are lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes

After 25 minutes, the onions are soft and lightly browned

Coriander seeds toasting in a pan until aromatic, about 5-6 minutes

Cumin seeds are then toasted

The toasted coriander and cumin seeds are ground in a mortar and pestle

The roasted spices along with garam masala, turmeric and paprika are added to the browned onions

The spices are mixed in and stirred well to combine

The ginger and garlic are pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped 

The ginger-garlic paste and plain yogurt are mixed in with the onions

The browned lamb is added and tossed with the sauce

Water is added to the pot and brought a boil, then covered, turned to low and simmered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours

After 2 hours, the sauce has become darker, richer and slightly thicker

1-pound of chopped, cooked and drained spinach is added to the curry

I added a bit more yogurt, uncovered the pot and continued to cook the curry over slightly higher heat for another 30 minutes to reduce the liquid

Saag Gosht: Indian Lamb & Spinach Curry
Serves 6

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
2 lb boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large or 3 small onions, finely chopped
10 cloves
10 cardamom pods
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
3 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 3-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup thick plain yogurt

2 tbsp ghee
1 lb spinach, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped

Place a small frying pan over low heat and dry roast the coriander seeds until aromatic, then remove and dry roast the cumin seeds. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, 
grind the roasted seeds into a fine powder and set aside.  

Pat the pieces of lamb thoroughly with paper towel and trim off any excess fat or tissue. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium-low heat and fry a few pieces of lamb at a time until browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pot and fry the onions, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorn and bay leaves, until the onion is lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. Add the roasted cumin and coriander, garam masala, turmeric and paprika and fry for 30 seconds. Add the ginger, garlic and yogurt and stir until well combined, then add the lamb with 1 2/3 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. At this stage, most of the water should have evaporated. If it hasn't, remove the lid, increase the heat and cook until the moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and ghee, to taste.

Cook the spinach briefly in a little simmering water until it has just wilted, then refresh with cold water. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out any excess water, then finely chop and add to the lamb. Cook for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, or until the lamb and spinach are well mixed and any extra liquid has evaporated.

To serve, place the curry in a warm dish with some basmati rice and warm chapatis if you like.