I hesitated about whether to call this a curry or not, as really it’s a bit of a hybrid dish, combining a traditional English lamb chop with some of my favourite Middle Eastern flavours (e.g. sumac) and some Indian ones for good measure (I ran out of Garam Masala so put in different quantities of the typical spices!).
This reminded me that the word curry has quite an interesting etymology; it comes from the Tamil kari, simply meaning “sauce” or “relish for rice”. I suppose this dish doesn’t fully comply with the traditional curry as it’s served with cous cous, rather than rice, but in its most basic form it certainly is.
I am no curry expert, but when I do make one I typically make a paste or toast the spices for maximum flavour. In this instance I opted for toasting/cooking the spices with the onions – it really releases the flavour and fills the kitchen with a lovely smell while you’re cooking. Caramelising the onions also gave the dish a nice sweet base, which I think complements the lamb nicely.
Of course, you could add coconut milk and have this dish with rice or not put the sweet potatoes in it and mash/roast them instead. The choice is yours really, whatever you prefer. I love having a spicy gravy like this with cous cous on the side, it feels a bit lighter and it soaks up the sauce really well!
If you’re wondering where the inspiration for this dish came from, it’s Simon Hopkinson. I like to read my cook book collection on the regular – and his book The Good Cook is one of my all time favourites. I absolutely love him. The recipe in question that kicked off this idea was ‘Oxtail nehari with potatoes’. I think I will be trying it next time I get some oxtail from the butchers. If you’ve not heard of him, then his writing is second to none and his recipes are simple, perfect and delicious. I highly recommend.
Anyway, here’s the recipe – don’t be put off by the ingredients list, once you’ve got past step 1 the pot will do all the work for you!
Ingredients (there are rather a lot!)
For the curry
4 lamb chops (I used Barnsley ones – you can get these at your butcher)
1 large red onion (mine was really big so you might need to medium-large!)
2 garlic cloves
½ medium red chilli
A few sprigs of thyme
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp fennel seeds
Pinch of sumac
Salt and pepper
1 large sweet potato, diced (2cm cubes, roughly)
1 red pepper, cut into similar size pieces to the sweet potato
1 stock cube (I used Kallo garlic and herb)
½ pint of water (for stock), plus extra
For the cous cous
Cous cous (I did 125g = 4 portions)
Hot water, plus ¼ – ½ stock cube if you like
Small knob of butter
1 pomegranate, seeds only
1 small tin of chickpeas
A few handfuls of fresh coriander, chopped
1) Seal your chops off in your pot in a little oil over a medium heat. Put on a plate to drain (on some kitchen roll). Leave the lamb fat and oil in the pot.
2) Chop the onions and put in the pot with a pinch of salt and pepper, sprigs of thyme, the garlic and chilli. I wanted this dish to have a slight sweetness, so I caramelised the onions down for about 12 minutes before adding the spices. Toast them in the middle of the pot for about 30-40 seconds, before stirring in. Add a splash of water and leave to cook down for another five or so minutes.
3) Once the onions are caramelised to your liking, add the sweet potato, red pepper, lamb chops and stock. Turn the heat up so it’s bubbling and leave to simmer, checking regularly.
4) Weigh out your cous cous and make it up according to instructions in a bowl (sometimes I add a little bit of Bouillon powder or chicken stock cube to make it extra tasty). Add some seasoning and olive oil, chopped coriander, the chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and whatever else you like. Mix it all together and set aside until serving.
5) After about 1.5 hours, your lamb and veg should be tender and the sauce should’ve cooked down. Taste it and check the spicing and seasoning – there’s time to rescue it if not too your taste! If it’s not cooked yet, leave it to cook longer, but top up with extra stock/water if required.
6) When ready, spoon some cous cous into your bowl and put a chop on top followed by a few ladles of sauce / veg. Top with more fresh coriander and some yoghurt, if you like. Enjoy!