What's On Rice: Spiced Lamb and Black-Eyed Peas

Saturday, November 8, 2008 1 comments

I remember my very first taste of Indian food during the summer of 1995 when a co-worker took me to a small restaurant across the street from the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh. It came thisclose to being the last time I had Indian food: the all-male waitstaff was so stern-faced, I was nearly too intimidated to order anything. Judging by our server's piercing gaze, enjoying our meal wasn't a wish but a direct imperative.  

Happily (and with great relief), the food was wonderful. From the crispy black-pepper papadum topped with spicy mint chutney to the velvety lamb korma to the savory biryani,  I was hooked.  The aromas and flavors of cardamom, cumin and yogurt were fascinatingly, deliciously unfamiliar to a palate more used to soy sauce, vinegar and garlic.  The dry, fluffy texture of Basmati was a pleasant contrast to the sticky softness of jasmine while the lamb introduced a new flavor dimension beyond the usual beef, chicken and pork. Until that meal, I actually believed that the entirety of Asian cuisine was composed of Filipino, Chinese and Japanese foods. No one in the history of eating has ever needed an atlas as badly as I did.

But my gustatory ignorance was not entirely my own fault. Like most people, my food preferences were shaped in childhood by what was served at the dinner table which in turn was influenced by family history, culture, and traditions. We often carry these food habits into adulthood because they keep us connected to home. It's no wonder some dishes are called 'comfort food' - they evoke treasured memories of love and nurturing. We may also stick to familiar foods for a more primal, instinctive reason: there's no risk of eating something unknown and potentially nauseating. But you know what they say - no risk, no reward. Taking that first bite out of my comfort food zone opened an entire world of culinary delights that I continue to explore and enjoy.

For years, I've been too intimidated to try my hand at South Asian cooking because the complex mix of spices necessary for its unique flavors seems beyond my skills (and I also have an irrational fear that the scary staff at the Raleigh restaurant will find out if I screw up). However, ready-mixed masalas and several years (and pounds) of eating Indian food under my belt have emboldened me to at least try Indian-inspired cooking. I call the following dish 'original' insofar as I didn't work off another recipe; however, given my still-limited knowledge of Indian cookery, I don't doubt that a form of this already exists. 

Spiced Lamb and Black Eyed Peas

Serves 2-4

Recommended rice: Basmati

1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp crushed garlic (garlic paste)
1/2 tsp crushed ginger (ginger paste)
1 Tbsp ghee
6 oz ground lamb
1 (15 oz) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 - 2 tsps crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 - 2 tsps curry powder
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1 - 1 1/2 tsps garam masala

Note: Feel free to adjust the amounts for red pepper, cumin, curry powder and garam masala to desired taste.

1.  Heat ghee in a large sauté pan on medium heat; add chopped onions and sauté until soft.
2.  Add garlic and ginger pastes; sauté for 1-2 minutes.
3.  Add lamb and cook until well-browned.

4.  Add diced tomatoes and black-eyed peas, followed by red pepper flakes, cumin, curry powder and salt to taste.
5.  Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and allow to continue light simmer for 5-8 minutes or until tomatoes have broken down. 
6.  Add garam masala and mix in well, a few minutes before turning off heat. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
7.  Serve over Basmati rice with yoghurt if you've opted for an even spicier flavor.



Clean Template ©Copyright 2011 Tangled Noodle | TNB