This dish includes my grandmother's mint chutney recipe. Her Brahmin soul is probably most uncomfortable knowing that I've used it to rub a leg of lamb! The fragrant mint seems a perfect foil for the tender, almost sweet spring lamb. The intensely spiced chutney adds real character to what could easily be called a simple dish of meat and potatoes. I make this instead of the traditional American Thanksgiving turkey—the aromas coming from the kitchen are just as tantalizing.
1 cup fresh mint leaves,
plus 1/4 cup julienned leaves
4 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons urad dal
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 fresh cayenne chiles
1/2 cup tamarind pulp
1/4 cup jaggery
Coarse salt, to taste
1 cup water
One 5 1/2 to 6-pound leg of spring lamb
6 medium potatoes,
peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup ghee
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup dry white wine
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1. Wash the mint and pick off all the leaves. Pat them dry and set aside.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the urad dal and coriander seeds and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until the dal and coriander are slightly browned and aromatic. Stir in the mustard and cumin seeds and cayenne peppers and continue to sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Scrape the spice mixture into a blender and process to purée.
3. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Stir in the mint leaves and sauté for 2 minutes. Scrape the mint into the blender. Add the tamarind pulp, jaggery, and salt and process to blend. Add the water and process for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is very smooth. Scoop out 2 tablespoons of the mint chutney and set it aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Brush the lamb with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Generously rub the remaining mint chutney over the lamb. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reaches 125 degrees F. for rare (or 135 degrees F. for medium). Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes before carving.
6. While the lamb is roasting, prepare the potatoes. Put them in cold, salted water to cover over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or just until the potatoes are tender. Drain well and pat dry. Toss with the reserved 2 tablespoons of mint chutney.
7. Heat the ghee in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes, or until the potatoes are slightly crisp and golden brown. Remove from the heat. Cover lightly to keep warm.
8. Place the lamb on a carving board.
9. Pour the pan juices into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Carefully spoon off any excess fat at the top. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Whisk in the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes, whisking frequently so that the sauce does not separate.
10. Using a sharp chef's knife, carve off 3 pieces of lamb for each serving, and place them in the centers of 6 dinner plates. Surround each serving of lamb with an equal portion of the potatoes. Drizzle the pan sauce over the top and garnish with julienned mint. Serve immediately.
Saintsbury Pinot Noir
Meridian Pinot Noir
The cherry fruitiness of the Pinot Noir grape will match perfectly with this mint-flavored lamb course.
Tamarind Pulp: Making tamarind pulp is quite simple. Combine a 1-pound block of tamarind with 4 cups of cold water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the tamarind is very soft. Pour into a blender and process until the mixture is of a soupy consistency, adding cold water, a bit at a time, if necessary. Strain the mixture through a medium sieve, pushing with a spatula, to separate the fibers and seeds from the pulp. Store the pulp in 1/2-cup amounts in the freezer. I find that small "zippered" plastic bags are perfect containers.
Jaggery: Flavoring with jaggery, or unrefined lump sugar, is more interesting to me than using regular granulated sugar. Jaggery, made from the juices of sugarcane or palm, is light brown in color and almost maplelike in flavor. It adds a very delicate and indefinable sweetness to desserts. If you can't find it, a combination of equal parts of dark brown and granulated white sugars and 1 tablespoon of maple sugar will make an excellent substitute.
Ghee: Clarified butter, the traditional Indian fat used when a dish requires an additional rich, nutty taste or when the cook wishes to add just a hint of enrichment or smooth out the texture, just as one uses butter in classic French cooking. I often use ghee to sauté fish or delicately flavored meats and as an enrichment for sauces or as a seasoning for vegetables. To make ghee, slowly melt 1 pound of unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat. Bring it to a low boil and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the white milk particles separate from the fat and begin to turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and strain the fat through a triple layer of cheesecloth into a sterile container. Cover and store at room temperature. Ghee can be kept at least a week.
Indian Flavors, French Passion
By Raji Jallepalli with Judith Choate
HarperCollins Publishers, March 2000
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created April 2000
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