Spicy lamb with coconut and kaffir lime
This is such an easy dish, and one we often eat, as apart from some initial chopping and mixing, everything just gets popped into a casserole dish, covered, and left to bubble gently in the oven for a few hours – my idea of heaven on a busy day! Although it tastes remarkably good eaten straight away, like so many spicy dishes it’s even better if it’s made a few days ahead of time so the flavours of the spices meld and become more rounded and mellow. I serve it with the minted yoghurt in the recipe, a simple cucumber salad, and a bowl of fragrant jasmine rice.
Serves 4 with leftovers
1 x 270ml can coconut cream
1 x 400g can crushed or diced tomatoes, and their juices
1 heaped tablespoon coriander seeds
1 heaped tablespoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 heaped tablespoon #curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves, central vein removed and leaves very, very finely sliced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1-2 small red chillies (depending on how hot you like things), finely chopped
2 ½ teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1.8kg boned leg of lamb, cut into 5cm chunks
Freshly squeezed lime (or lemon juice), to taste
1 cup (280 g) thick Greek-style plain yoghurt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, or more to taste
Large handful mint leaves, finely shredded
Splash of extra-virgin olive oil
¾ – 1 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of ground cumin, to finish
Tiny mint leaves, to garnish, optional
Cooked rice (jasmine rice is lovely), tiny coriander and mint leaves, and lime wedges or cheeks, to serve
# My favourite is Patak’s tomato and tamarind curry paste, however there’s no need to go out and buy it just for this, use whatever you have on hand
Preheat your oven to 150C.
Pour the coconut cream and crushed or diced tomatoes with their juices, into a medium to large casserole dish (with a lid) that will fit the lamb comfortably – I use my trusty old enamelled cast-iron casserole for this.
Grind the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds in a spice mill, or crush them finely with a mortar and pestle. Add them to the coconut mixture along with the turmeric, curry paste, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, chillies, and salt and pepper, then thoroughly mix everything together. Add the lamb chunks to the mixture and stir them about so they’re well coated in it. Cover the casserole then pop it into the oven. Cook the lamb for 2 ½ hours, or until it’s tender.
While the lamb is cooking, make the minted yoghurt. Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and thoroughly mix them together. Taste it, and add more of anything you like – salt, oil, mint or cumin, whatever makes it taste just right to you. Scoop the mixture into a small serving bowl, cover it and pop it in the fridge. Just prior to serving, drizzle it with a tiny bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a bit more cumin. Scatter on a few mint leaves, if using.
When the lamb is ready, remove the dish from the oven and leave it to settle for 10 minutes (don’t worry, it will stay hot). Uncover the dish, and dab paper towel over the surface to absorb any fat that has floated to the top (it always surprises me just how much fat lamb can give out). Finally, taste the cooking liquid and add a good squeeze of lime juice (it’s remarkable how this enhances the flavour) and/or salt, if needed.
Scoop the lamb and its juices into individual bowls (I usually spoon cooked rice into the bottom of the bowls first) and finish off with a little bundle of coriander and mint leaves, and some lime wedges. Serve with the minted yoghurt.