Every time people I know move, I am the eager recipient of boxes of old cooking magazines they may have stored in their basements. These then get transported into my basement, or my parents’ basement, to be dusted off and moved again when we do. Mike loves this.
Likewise, I am always the one lugging magazines out of church and garage sales for a quarter apiece. Then they get stored in our basement/garage/bedroom until I have a chance to flip through them and pull out the most interesting pages. Their final stage of decomposition is when said pages are piled into my big yellow milk crate for sorting, and the rest gets recycled.
As I may have mentioned, my parents are moving, so a box of Saveur magazines have been returned to their rightful owner. I stumbled upon this recipe for ground lamb and peas in yogurt: aha! a use for that chub of ground lamb and unreasonably huge bag of peas taking up prime real estate in my freezer.
Keema matar calls for a technique known as tarka: which refers to sauteeing whole spices – in this case coriander, cumin and chiles—in clarified butter (also known as ghee) to boost flavour. Of course this does not require you to go purchase a jar of ghee; my plan was to simply use melted butter and perhaps scoop the suds off the top. But to be truthful, my enthusiasm for this dish waned with every step as I plodded through the instructions. I thought I had garam masala; I did not. I had to puree the ginger and garlic with turmeric and garam masala and water to make a watery paste. When it came time to do the tarka, I found I had exhausted my stash of cumin seed, and my coriander was missing (this could be due to one of W’s favorite pastimes: to throw my spices out the bathroom window) but I soldiered on. I threw in the towel when I realized I didn’t have chiles de árbol, only ancho and guillano, and who knows if they are similar? I plopped in a spoonful of curry paste and was done with it.
The method – saute onions, add ginger-garlic paste and tomato paste, cook to caramelize (? the onions should be caramelized before the moisture goes in) and then add the lamb and cook it, too, was odd. I’d have done it the other way – cook the onions and lamb, then add the ginger-garlic and spices and tomato paste. I’m not sure what the benefit is of the other method – it was difficult to tell when the lamb was cooked in that mixture, and impossible to pour off the excess fat – but I’m sure if someone with Indian cooking expertise did it it would turn out beautifully.
And actually, Mike thinks it did. I was ho-hum about it, but I found him picking out of the pan after dinner, and he said “this is one of the best things you’ve ever made! It’s like an Indian Hamburger Helper.”