I was standing at the meat counter patiently waiting my turn. The gal ahead of me, a lovely Indian women, kept adding items to her order; “while you are down there, add four of those”, she said, speaking of lamb shoulder blade chops. I contemplated those chops as I eyed the lovely marbling of fat nestled amongst the thick, red slabs of meat. I have contemplated them before but pass them up for the illustrious rib rack or humble bone-in leg. She seemed so confident in her selection though, that I couldn’t help but ask what she was doing with them; a lamb curry she replied. “I brown them first, which is the most important part, then add some Indian spices, chopped onion, tomato and braise them. It is kind of like making a stew; sometimes I’ll add turnips or something, then you can just let it go by itself”.
Then it was my turn to place an order, which began with two pounds of ground lamb (one of which would be used for Ginger and Buddy’s dinner), 1 lb of apple-smoked bacon (breakfast maybe?), a slab of baby back ribs (they looked particularly good), and what the heck, “I’ll take four of those too”, I told the butcher, pointing to the lamb shoulder blade chops.
Off I went, with my packages in the cart and on to the cheese counter where I sampled the Spring Gouda (and threw a wedge of that in on top of the other things that were not on my list). I was standing in the bread aisle when I heard an announcement over the speaker for the person who took the wrong cart to please come to Customer Service; “idiot”, I snickered. For now I was intent on finding my chestnut crackers and luckily found the last pack straggling behind by itself on a lower shelf.
My mind was scanning itself for what else I might be forgetting; I had come here for three items and wasn’t convinced that I had any of those three yet in my cart. I had spent so much time in produce that I lost track of why I came to the store in the first place. Ah yes, fresh-squeezed orange juice, check; I remembered getting that from produce. Natural all-purpose cleaner, yes, I remembered going with the one that disinfects. Check. Chestnut crackers, uh huh, just picked them up. My work here was officially done.
I got to the check out counter (20 minutes later) and as I stood in line, a weird sensation came over me. I felt a little lost as I started pulling the items from my cart onto the conveyer belt. I had picked up a large planter of baby lettuces from the garden racks outside on my way in; where was my planter? Who took my !@#$%! planter?
In the child’s seat of the cart, were two ears of corn, Roma tomatoes and a plastic bag with three mangos. I had selected two ears of corn but mine were much smaller and while I also chose three mangos, I had just thrown them into the main compartment without a plastic bag; I rarely use a plastic bag. I knew I didn’t put those tomatoes in because I always buy the brown tomatoes, if not those, the ones on the vine; vines that these tomatoes were missing. A wave of panic came over me as I looked up onto the belt and scanned it quickly for my cold-pressed orange juice. It wasn’t there. Tom would freak!
I looked at the gal behind the counter and asked if she remembered the earlier announcement about the missing shopping cart? I was standing there holding a plastic bag with a single artichoke, I had not picked out, and confessed, “It was me, I am the idiot that took the wrong cart. It was me!”
She told me to go to Customer Service but, nobody was there , and I did not see a cart with my items. So I left the, mostly empty, cart with the wayward corn, tomatoes, mango and artichoke (in case it’s owner came back) and ran quickly to produce so I could get another orange juice (for Tom). On my way back to the register I grabbed an ear of corn, a mango and a bag of cherries, assuming that I had lost the rest of my produce. I got back just as she was finishing up my order, handed her the items and she told me that she already rang up a bag of cherries. I was perplexed as to how I could still have had cherries in my cart when the cart must have gone missing after I left produce?!
When I got home, I realized that not only was I missing the cacao powder I had convinced myself to try, the sprouted brown rice I was happy to find, and that cute jar of local, raw honey, but I managed to make it back with only one of the items I had set out to buy, the orange juice (for Tom). I also realized that the bag of cherries were not the ones I had selected because my bag was open and this bag was closed. And, while I didn’t take the time to get another planter of baby lettuces, I did end up with a head of live lettuce, neatly tucked into a plastic bag. I guess it is like the song says, “You don’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you get what you need!”
As I set out to make this, I realized that I had no idea what a lamb curry was. What Indian spices was the woman referring to? Does a curry need a curry paste or is it okay to use just the powder? Does it have to have coconut milk to qualify? I decided that it didn’t matter what an authentic curry should be, I would just approach it like a stew – with some Indian spices thrown in.
I started out with just the lamb blade chops, which were probably plenty of meat, but since we decided to take it with us to Hoodsport to eat with my in-laws, I decided to add an extra pound of lamb, but this time I used “lamb stew meat,” AKA chopped leg meat. I cooked that separately (because I had to cook it in “off-site” a few days later) with a sprinkling of ground coriander and curry powder, sea salt and pepper. I added red wine and let it braise, covered, for a few hours to get it to the same tenderness of the other meat. I then removed the meat from the lamb shoulder blade chops that I had already cooked a couple days prior, added them to the stew meat and poured the braising liquid and vegetables over top. I let that cook for another hour and left it to warm until we were ready to eat.
I always think it is better to make slow-cooked meals a day or so in advance because they tend to get better with a little age. You can make this with all stew meat or all blade shoulder chops, or a combination of both. I suppose, if you use the chops, you can serve them whole on top of the braise liquid and vegetables, but I think it is nicer to remove the bones and let the whole thing become one.
2 lbs lamb shoulder blade, lightly salt and peppered, and at room temperature
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB chopped, peeled ginger (no, not that Ginger)
1 tsp curry
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tumeric
2 TB chopped, seeded, jalepeño
4 kumquats, sliced thinly
1 large tomato, chopped
1 eggplant, 1/4” diced
1 turnip, skinned and 1/4” diced
1 cup red wine
2 TB lime juice
1/2 cup yogurt
In a large sauté pan, heat some olive oil and brown the lamb well on each side.
Remove them to a large, low, oven-proof pan (I used my Le Creuset paella pan); add the onion, garlic and ginger to the hot pan. Sauté a few minutes and add wine, curry, coriander, turmeric and lime juice to the wine and simmer until it is just mixed together.
Meanwhile, scatter the jalepeños, kumquats, cilantro and tomatoes over top of the lamb.
Pour the wine mixture over the lamb mixture and bring to a simmer.
Transfer the pot to a pre-heated, 350-degree oven and let cook for one hour.
Add the eggplant and turnips by simply lifting the lamb out of the vessel slightly in order to tuck the vegetables underneath.
Stir in the yogurt and cook one to two hours more or until the meat is very tender.
Either serve right away over (brown) rice or let come to room temperature and keep it up to three days more in the ‘fridge. If reheating, allow an hour in a 350-degree oven to let the flavors mix and heat all the way through.