Chana Ghost

Chana ghost

I’m always fascinated by Indian food, but it’s a tricky art to master I find. In theory, it’s straightforward enough and in fairness, I make a fairly passable curry these days after a lot of trial and error over the years. When it comes down to working with the spices though, it’s alway a little bit more difficult.

There’s such a bewildering array to potentially combine, each in differing quantities that themselves vary between the regions, that it often seems fairly impenetrable to the fair-weather Indian food cooks like myself. I tend to stick closely to the experts recipes when going away from my own limited repertoire.

It must be said, I tend to go through food fads and cycles, veering erratically along the culinary pavement like a pay-day drunkard at kicking-out time. At the moment it’s Indian food though, so when I caught this on Saturday Kitchen, I knew I had to give it a go.

Seeing as it was also by Atul Kochhar, a chef whose restaurant I’d love to try if we manage to get down to London in the near future, that was – as they say – that.

Thankfully, the spice list doesn’t include anything too obscure for my local shops and the only thing I had to hunt down was the black cardamon, which I’d never used before. It definitely added a distinctive smokiness. It needs a bit of pre-prep as using dried chickpeas need an overnight (or all day at least) soak before boiling them.

Black cardamom

It was a lovely combination with quite powerful spices flavouring the lamb. I did try it with some chicken too, as an ‘insurance policy’ for Helen who has a love/hate relationship with lamb, but it didn’t work as well – it was too strong.

I’m not normally a recipe person, I get far too impetuous to follow stepwise instructions, but I didn’t dare mess with this one. Glad I didn’t in the end, although I did it in a slightly different order.

So that said, you can find the original recipe on the BBC Food website. Please do click it, it saves me typing it out if nothing else….

Start by cooking the chickpeas in the spices. They take a good 30-45 mins.

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Meanwhile, make a paste of ginger and garlic. If, like me, your blender/processor simply flings large chunks that stick to the side while the blades spin round fruitlessly, add more water than you need and slowly simmer the water off. Make more than you need and keep it for later…

Garlic and ginger paste

Now, to the business end – assemble your spices!

Garam masala spices

Dry fry them in a hot pan for a minute or so and set aside to cool. Blitz them in the coffee grinder and sieve them. The sieving was new to me, but fairly obvious really in hindsight.

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punjabi garam masala

In heavy pan, fry some whole spices in a disconcerting (but necessary) amount of oil.

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Sauté the onion until very soft and add the rest of the ingredients.

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Add the chickpeas and some water to cover and remember to take a picture. Reduce to make the thickened sauce.

Make the naan bread indigents and roll into appropriate shapes. Bake them on a pizza stone in a hot oven and keep warm.

Naan bread

Take the lamb rump, and seal it well on the BBQ (or in a pan if using the oven).

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Roll the lamb in the masala spices and place back on the BBQ/Oven. IMG_9208-imp

I like it quite rare, so it took only 15 minutes on all sides on the fairly inconsistent gas grill. It won’t take that long in the oven. Leave it to rest.

Spiced lamb rump

Smells amazing, I promise you.

Combine the whole lot with the garnish and enjoy. I certainly did.

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Curried Lamb Shanks and Naan Bread.

Curried Lamb Shanks

OK, so even I’m getting over BBQ food at the moment. And salads, lovely as they are in the garden with a glass of something cold are getting a bit tiresome.

It’s a bit weird that I don’t see curry as a summer food as the Indians eat this in far warmer climes than these, but maybe it’s just me. So, fight fire with fire I say and with my added side-quest to get my wife to enjoy a lamb dish this a pretty risky proposition.

I'm slaving away. The muggy gets my chair. Hmm...

I’m slaving away. The moggy gets my chair. Hmm…

I’ve managed to establish that Helen’s dislike of lamb is down to the ‘lambiness’ of some dishes. Now this is a major breakthrough. We recently went to a brilliant Persian supper club meal with friends (more on this in a later post) and she thoroughly enjoyed the slow cooked lamb. I think I’ve deduced therefore that whilst the Sunday roast will never be an option, maybe this type of dish will, having had most of the fat rendered out.

So, I bought a couple of lamb shanks, classic slow cooking cuts, from a local butcher. Otherwise, I didn’t need to look far for inspiration as I’ve been meaning to make a dish I found on an app I have for  Hyderabadi Shanks by Alfred Prasad on the Great British Chefs website. A great website by the way and well worth a browse.

I made a few minor tweaks for our own tastes/available ingredients but otherwise tried to stay faithful to the recipe. I slow cooked the shanks for about 3 hours and then left them to  rest overnight before finishing the curry the next evening.

To accompany this, some homemade naan breads. Simple in theory, these are fairly difficult to do in domestic ovens, as the lovely light airy versions you find in restaurants are made using a super-hot tandoori oven. I improvised using a pizza stone in the oven at full whack – a respectable 275°C (530°F). The results were pretty good to be fair.

Naan Breads

The recipes make about 5 (or more depending on size) but freeze well for later on.

Serves 2:

For the curry:

  • Two lamb shanks
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 1/2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves and a large piece of ginger
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • Chicken stock – about 500ml (enough to cover the lamb) or water if not.
  • 1 tbsp garam masala and a good handful of chopped coriander stems/leaf to finish.
  • 1 threaded carrot to serve.

For the naan breads (makes 4-5 large)

  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 sachet of dried instant yeast
  • 200ml milk
  • 100ml yoghurt (about 4 tbsp)
  • Melted butter to finish, if you like.

I used dried coriander and cumin and so dry roasted them first in the hot pan and ground them in a spice mill. Set aside.

Make a paste out of the garlic and ginger by blending them with a little water (or a good old fashioned pestle and mortar)

Add the oil to a large oven proof pan and fry the cardamon, mustard seed, onion, and cloves for a couple of minutes. Push to one side and add the lamb shanks to brown well, with a good pinch of salt.

Add the ginger/garlic paste and stir to coat. Then the  rest of the spices – the chilli powder, coriander, cumin and cinnamon. Continue to fry for a couple of minutes – it smells amazing.

Lamb shanks with spices

Add the yoghurt and tomatoes and simmer in the oil for a few minutes more then cover the lamb with the chicken stock.

Curried Lamb Shanks

Simmer on the hob on the lowest heat setting, or in the oven at 140°C/280°F for 3 hours. Rest over night if you can, but it’s not necessary.

When ready to cook, remove the lamb from the sauce and set aside in a roasting pan. I covered it with foil and used my smaller oven to warm (only 100°C/210°F)

Pour off any unwanted oil (there was quite a lot) and blend the sauce until smooth. I used a stick blender for less washing up 😉

Simmer gently until thickened. Once done, turn off the heat and once stopped simmering stir in the garam masala and coriander stems/leaves.

Meanwhile, make the naan dough by combining everything and kneading until smooth and stretchy. I used the dough hook on my mixer – a Godsend – but keep an eye on it or it can be over kneaded. I used the stretch test after 5 minutes and it was done.

Leave to rise once until double the size somewhere warm and get the oven ready. I got the pizza stone in the middle of the oven and set it to max. Flatten and portion the dough and roll out to a tear-drop shape, brush with oil and when the oven is ready, place it straight onto the stone. It bubbles up really quickly and can burn so watch it carefully! Brush with the butter once done if you are using it. Cook them all whilst the oven is on and freeze the excess for another day.

Naan Breads

Plate up the lamb shanks and pour over the sauce generously. Finish with the carrot, a naan bread and a Cobra beer.

Curried Lamb Shank