Lamb and lentils, lots of spices, this is a real midweek treat. That photo doesn’t do it justice, I promise it’s tastier than it looks. It takes less than an hour to make, and is a surprisingly low fat curry – always a bonus when you want Indian food but can’t be doing with the usual pints of cream and/or oil it often involves. You can make it with chicken or beef, but I like it with lamb because it’s a good way to use a tasty cheap cut like lamb neck.
Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, I bet you have half the stuff in your cupboard anyway and if you don’t then buying them will be a good investment for future Indian-food-making. And the world won’t end if you miss out a few ingredients or have to improvise.
2 lamb neck fillets or about 275g lamb, any cut
175g mixed lentils. I used a mix of split red, green and yellow lentils. Just use whatever you have lying around.
5 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1″ piece of mace
1 large bay leaf
1/2 star anise (if you have powdered, use about a teaspoon)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
A handful of fresh coriander leaves and fenugreek leaves
A small handful of mint leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1″ piece of ginger, pealed and chopped finely
However much chilli or chilli powder you want to use.
1 pint chicken or beef stock
First, get all your dry spices together so you’re all prepared. Just put them all in a bowl and mix them up. Cut the lamb into large-ish chunks.
Rinse the lentils and put them in a pan with 2/3rds of the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or so. If it gets a bit dry, add the rest of the chicken stock.
Meanwhile, heat up another pan (one that will be big enough to contain the whole dish). Don’t put any oil in it, just tip the spices straight into the hot pan and dry-fry them. Stir every now and again and after a couple of minutes the spices will smell roasty and go a darker brown. The corainder seeds might start popping. Tip the spices out back into the bowl they came from. If you have a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder, grind your spices in that. If not, put them in a plastic bag and bash with a heavy implement (a rolling pin or can or beans will do) until the spices are reasonably ground down. Have a smell, it’s lovely.
In the same pan as you did the spices, add some oil and get it nice and hot, then fry the lamb quickly on all sides to brown it. You don’t need to cook it through, you’re just giving it some colour and nice crunchy bits. Take the pan off the heat and tip in the ground spices, garlic, ginger, chillies, fresh coriander and mint.
Once the lentils are reasonably soft, whizz them with a blender or a food processor until soup-like. Not all the lentils will be as soft as each other – this doesn’t matter, the variation in texture is good. Pour the lentils into the pan with the meat and spices, give it a good stir, put it back on the heat and bring the whole lot up to a simmer. Have a taste – if you feel it needs salt, add it.
Simmer for about 20 minutes. While it’s simmering, get your rice ready if that’s what you’re serving it with. Plate it up and sprinkle some fresh coriander over the top. Eat it!