Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Curried Lamb Ragout

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I love lamb, but I have friends who don’t. Or at least they think they don’t. Recently I asked a friend if he liked lamb and the response was a semi-doubtful “Sure, I guess so.”

I had been to the grocery and found lamb stew meat on sale and snapped it up. Then the question of how to cook it arose. I had seen a recipe for an Indian lamb and lentil recipe. It had a long list of spices involved, but I thought I could do quite well with a good commercial curry powder.

I’ve been on a butternut squash kick lately, so that had to go in, and I used canned black beans instead of lentils.

Many Indian dishes are served here with garnishes such as toasted coconut, minced cilantro, raisins or a sweet fruit chutney. I used an almost-green banana to make a rather unique chutney that perfectly complemented the dish. We all wished we’d had more of it, so I’ve doubled it.

When I first made it, it was a bit too soupy for my taste, so I’ve cut down on the liquid. The result is a nice stew consistency. I served it with grilled pita wedges (instead of Indian naan bread) and a salad.

This will make a great dish for company or family. And my doubtful friend? He loved it!


2 lbs lamb stew meat
4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder (see note)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1 small (about 3 pounds) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
2 16- to 20-ounce cans black beans, not rinsed or drained
2 bananas, very firm, almost green
Juice and zest of two limes
1 bunch cilantro
1 small jalapeño pepper, finely minced (optional)

Put the lamb, stock and bay leaves in a large non-reactive sauce pan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is almost tender, about 45 minutes.

While the lamb is cooking, in a medium skillet heat the butter and add the garlic. Stir a couple of times, then add the onion and sauté just until translucent. Add the curry powder and cardamom (if using) and stir a couple of minutes. Scrape this into the lamb mixture, add the butternut squash and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the black beans and cook until lamb is completely done and the butternut squash is cooked through but still firm, about 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, peel the bananas and cut them in half lengthwise. Slice crosswise about ¼” thick. Toss with the lime juice and zest. Add 3 tablespoons minced cilantro. If you like spicy foods, add the jalapeño pepper.

When ready to serve, ladle the ragout into flat soup plates, garnish with the banana mixture and additional whole cilantro leaves. Serves 6 generously.

NOTES: Whether to use hot or mild curry powder is your choice. I used mild, but I’m a bit of a wimp about hot foods, and found the jalapeño in the chutney to give just enough heat for my taste.

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