Recipe Source: Milton, Jane with Jenni Fleetwood and Marina Filippelli. The Food and Cooking of Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. Anness Publishing, London, 2009 p. 232
As a part of my campaign to eat healthier I've been trying to limit our consumption of red meat to once per week, generally on Sundays. This is having mixed results - sometimes we dine out, and sometimes my husband cooks and we have meat then too, but it's something I've been trying. It's too early to tell how successful I've been yet but I guess that it's the attempt that matters, right? Anyway, as part of my campaign to have time to work on my various other responsibilities and projects I've been trying to have as much of the week's meals prepared ahead of time as I can. One recent night the two worlds collided with a fierceness that startled me. I was displeased with how they collided, but I was generally pretty happy with how this dish turned out. Allow me to explain.
My intent was to make a tofu and mushroom curry to eat for that night. It went awry from the very start. I had a very specific Thai curry in mind, from a book. I couldn't find any of the ingredients for the curry paste, either in the supermarket or in my pantry. That was okay. I like tofu and I like mushrooms, so I was perfectly happy to just wing it with those ingredients that I could find. I wouldn't work from the book or even pretend that it was Thai, but it would be delicious. I made the dish according to my specifications and I cooled it down and I stored it overnight - no longer. The next day I prepared the dish I planned to serve on Sunday - this dish - while I reheated the curry.
As soon as I served up the curry I knew something was hideously, horribly wrong. Something reeked of plastic. I had no idea where it could have come from. The only thing that I could think of was that there had been something in the second can of coconut milk, added that second day in an attempt to avoid burning the dish. Some kind of contaminant. Either way, the dish could not be served. (My husband did actually attempt to eat it, but found it to have an "unpleasant, burning taste, not like chili peppers but burning.") So we discarded the offending curry and decided to eat this - conveniently cooked and hot and ready and everything - instead. As luck would have it some friends of my husband's called and wanted to go out to dinner the next night, which meant I didn't even need to go shopping for Sunday.
I made a few changes, which you suspected. I seasoned the lamb with ras el hanout, because it was out on the counter and I'd gotten it for Christmas. I increased the onion, because onions are good for you. I also increased the garlic, both because garlic is also good for you and because my three year old likes to help peel the garlic and will pitch an unholy fit if not allowed to do so. I will eat a lot of garlic to buy a little peace. Instead of lamb stock, which was noticeably lacking in my supermarket, I used the remaining vegetable broth in the carton in my refrigerator. Since that wasn't enough liquid for the recipe I made up the difference with white wine. The original called for spinach. I got good deal on organic chard that week so I used that instead.
As I mentioned the results were pretty darned good. The meat came out a little drier than I expected but the sauce was incredibly delicious and flavorful, and of course there was chard. I'm still annoyed and perplexed by the suspected contaminant in the original vegan dish I'd planned to serve, but I'm also grateful to have caught it in time and not to have harmed my family by it.
Seasoned-Up Lamb with Chard (serves 6; approx. $5.19/serving)
2 pounds lamb, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (mine is usually low-sodium)
1/2 cup white wine
1 bunch fresh green chard, leaves only, chopped (reserve the stalks for another purpose)
- Resealable container for marinating
- Dutch oven
- The day before you plan to serve, sprinkle the spices over the lamb and put into the resealable container. Refrigerate overnight.
- The day you plant to serve, heat the oil in the Dutch oven.
- Add the onion and garlic. Saute gently until the onion is very soft.
- Add the meat and the tomato paste. Increase heat slightly and brown the meat.
- Add the broth and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer (covered) 30 minutes. The lamb should be very tender when you're done.
- Add the chard. Simmer uncovered until the greens are tender.
- Serve hot.