Date Liquor & Lamb

Raunchy Lamb Curry

Caution: This is a recipe of such raunchy proportions it may offend the tender hearted. Stewing lamb is seduced by a cocktail of pulsed dates, a slick of tamarind and fiery fresh ginger and spiked with a smoky profile thanks to black cardamom pods and cinnamon. 

The motivation for this dish? The insatiable appetite of the culinary team at The Guardian..”We’re wondering if you’ve got any ideas for our ‘dates’ feature?” The wisdom of the Maharani tugged at my generous ear lobes “keep saying ‘yes’ until they stop asking”.

Inspired by the way Middle Eastern culture uses fruit in their cuisine and its cross-over into Indian food, I explored the partnership between lamb and crushed dates, how would they respond to the gloss of tamarind and the karate chop of ginger? Perhaps the profile of the dish might be a little like a bare-knuckle fighter challenged to a Queensbury Rules only bout...a little too brash. How to finesse the performance? A little warmth and freshness, involving cinnamon and black cardamom cut with verdant mint leaves. The result...a lamb and date curry of such generosity you’ll be the richer for eating it.

Stewing Liquor

  • 200g pitted dates
  • 400ml water
  • 1tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 25g ginger, peeled and chopped

Masala Base

  • 1kg stewing lamb
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 black cardamom pods
  • 1tbs ground coriander
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1tbs lemon juice
  • Fresh chopped mint leaves, a palm full
Date and Lamb Curry

How To Make Date Liquor & Lamb

This is essentially a one pot ‘wonder’ in the truest sense, with a little prep involved. Take all the stewing liquor ingredients and pulse in a blender until you have a loose jammy consistency and set aside. Using a large stock pot, heat the oil over a medium temperature and slide in the onions, garlic, cinnamon and black cardamom, cooking until the ingredients have tanned and the pot is smelling fragrant. Sprinkle in the ground coriander and coat all the ingredients for a minute or two and then pop in the lamb, stirring well until the everything is wrapped in the masala base. Brown the meat, then turn to a medium low heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes leaving the lamb to relax in its juices. Meanwhile mix the saffron and cayenne pepper in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of hot water, stand for 5 minutes then strain into the pot. Now it’s time to spoon the stewing liquor, stir well, cover and cook for an hour or until the lamb is tender and falling apart. Before serving, squish in the lemon juice and stir in the mint leaves for a final flourish.

Enjoy with chard sautéed with mustard seeds, lemon and chopped chilli.

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