Smackdown: A Swinging Saturday Night

curry, cropped

I know I said I would do this last night.

lamb, rawlamb, seared

But it was Friday, and that means the end of the week, and that means TIRED. But don’t worry, I’ve already been chastised for not delivering on my promise. I’m sorry. A little.

Mostly I’m happy that this was not a shepherd’s pie made with tempeh. Instead, it’s a lamb-coconut curry from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything . Which, by the way, does NOT in fact tell you how to cook EVERYTHING, because I was thinking of making a regular meaty shepherd’s pie this week, and Bittman would not tell me how to do it.* In fact, NONE of my cookbooks would tell me how to do it, which I think indicates a serious fault in my cookbook collection.

I still wanted to do something with lamb because Brian was still really bitter about having to eat the tempeh, not that I held a gun to his head, so I decided on this curry. Easy to make, easier to eat.

*At least, he didn’t put it in an easily accessible location in the index, and I’m not tenacious.

onions, rawonions

Of course, then the weather was ridiculous in a good way and all I wanted to do was scrap the whole damn thing and throw the lamb on the grill, but a promise is a promise even if you’ve already shirked some of it, is it not? It mostly is.

I browned the lamb chunks in a dutch oven, smoking out the living room in the process. This activated SUPER DOG WHINING POWERS because in a past apartment searing meat would always set off the fire alarm, which the dogs understandably hated. So I got to listen to an anxious dog cry and pace the floor while getting spattered with burning hot lamb grease. I mean I got spattered, not the dog; it’s not like I hold my dogs up to the stove while I fry. Is that what you thought? You’re sick.

I gave the dogs leftover hunks of raw lamb to placate them and because it’s funny to watch their happy drooling dog faces. I also removed the browned lamb from the pan and tossed in some onions to color.


Once the first batch of onions were nice and golden – at least, I assumed they were nice and golden, since they picked up all the fond from the pan and it was a little hard to tell – I tossed in some more onions, along with garlic, turmeric, ginger, cayenne and plenty of garam masala.It was pretty.

I also opened another window, because my stove hood sucks ass* and the apartment was still full of smoke. This enabled the dogs to switch from SUPER DOG WHINING to SUPER DOG BARKING AT HARMLESS PEOPLE ON THE SIDEWALK. Never will my home be threatened by the terrifying idle chatter of people walking past on their way home from the supermarket. FYI, if you have a granny cart, you are even more untrustworthy.**

This is why we spend a lot more time with the back windows open.

*Unless you are someone who may one day be interested in buying my apartment. In that case, the stove hood is exemplary. The Platonic form of a stove hood.

**But not as terrifying as children on skateboards. SKATEBOARD = TOOL OF THE DEVIL.

cooking curry

After toasting the spices for a few minutes, I added the lamb back in along with some coconut milk. I let it come up to a boil, brought it down to a simmer and then covered it and let it go. And you know what I did? I TOOK A NAP. Granted, it was a half-assed nap because my body knew it had to listen for the timer, but a nap nonetheless. For those interested, it was a couch-style nap, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Maybe the key to this whole enterprise is only cooking meals wherein there is a 90-minute period in which no action is required on my part. Hmm.

After a little more than an hour. the whole mess had cooked down to tender hunks of lamb in a deeply fragrant, dark brown sauce that screamed I AM INDIAN FOOD. I hope the neighbors like the smell of Indian food, for it is a penetrating smell, an insistent smell, a smell that demands attention. Point is, the common hallway reeks, and the neighbors are going to need to get over it.

curry parts

I also cooked up some jasmine rice and ripped up some cilantro for a garnish. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because it was just cooking rice. Which I fail at a surprising percentage of the time, but not tonight, possibly because I actually followed the instructions on the package and didn’t try to wing it. So apparently I am going to say more about the rice.

I write a food blog, and I’m being self-congratulatory because I successfully cooked a pot of rice. You guys should really be reading better food blogs.

I heaped everything into bowls and rang the dinner bell. Metaphorically, not literally. If we had a real dinner bell, it would probably cause the dogs to bark, cry or do both simultaneously, which they are able to do. Never let it be said that they are without skill.


I cannot recommend this curry highly enough. If you have decent spices on hand, it couldn’t be simpler to throw together. It demands a little stove time at the outset to brown the meat, but you can do that in the oven if need be, thus adding to the amount of nappable time. I might up the amount of cayenne next time – because there will be a next time – because the amount indicated produced a gentle back-of-the-throat tingle but no real heat.

The lamb was perfectly tender but retained its crusty exterior, even after all its time simmering in the coconut milk. Which I just typed as “crustly,” which I think should be a legitimate word. The sauce was sweet but not too sweet and redolent with spice.

That Bittman knows his stuff, even if he won’t tell me how to make a shepherd’s pie.

The main recipe in the book is actually a non-coconut version, but I can’t imagine that it’s superior to this, so I officially endorse only the coconut version.

19 thoughts on “Smackdown: A Swinging Saturday Night

  1. 1. Why ISN’T “crustly” a word? It should be, you’re right.

    2. I too get very self-congratulatory about successfully cooking rice, and I even cook it pretty well most of the time. I can understand a bit of rice pride. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    3. The Indian food smell that your neighbours are smelling is not tormenting them, but taunting them. It’s saying “we just cooked something ridiculously delicious and YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY, neener neener peener pants.” I know, because I have to smell that smell fairly frequently. My neighbours ought to invite me over for dinner, that’s what I think. If I lived in the same state as you, I might insist that you invite me over, too.

  2. I cannot cook rice either. To achieve riceness I had to borrow a rice cooker from a friend, because I am cheap. But before I conned my friend out of the steamer I found that I could effectively cook rice in the oven – but that was the only way.

    And this looks delicious. Although I cannot fathom why there would even be a non-coconut milk option.

  3. I am a vegan who was rather sad to hear your distaste for the shepherdess pie, but I have to say, this lamb dish looks amazing and I think I might have to make it myself. With tofu, natch.

    also, I don’t comment much here but I do love all your posts, bacon-fat-laden or vegan or otherwise. :)

  4. Cool, I have that Bitmann, I’ll have to try this … when it’s not 80 outside! I’m sure we have one more “cool” snap ahead of us :0)

  5. When I was growing up my mother always made lamb. We had it roasted, we had lamb chops, she made curry and my all time favorite: lamb shanks so tender they fell off the bone with the richest gravy and mashed potatoes. Heaven.

    I made her lamb curry for my husband.

    He doesn’t like lamb. At all. I haven’t had lamb in forever.

  6. Wow. My husband will want that.

    May I recommend Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for shepherd’s pie? My husband learned it from him off the telly (thank you cable for carrying the BBC) and that is some fucking good shepherd’s pie. I think I may demand that he make it for me this week. Hmm. Where is that husband of mine?

  7. That curry most definitely has my name on it. Lamb? Coconut? Curry? GET. IN.

    Looks utterly fab, Michelle. Well worth waiting for. Not that I was waiting, exactly (‘cos I was napping, just like you recommended) but you know what I mean.

  8. Don’t you love this time of year, when you’re so excited to finally get to open the windows? At least until the Dog Alarm goes off three seconds later, because over the winter they’ve completely forgotten that there are people out there and OMG they are walking RIGHT PAST THE HOUSE and may be RIDING BIKES or GASP – WALKING OTHER DOGS!!!11!!

    Border Collies? Not always so smart.

    Also, congratulations. You’ve made a long time vegetarian crave meat. Again.

  9. it’s an excellent book (most of the time; not crazy about the apple crisp). he likes his coconut milk–his red beans & rice with coconut milk is different, but tasty. this curry is definitely on my must-make list. thanks, blogger lady!

  10. You gotta love any recipe that lets you take a nap in the middle of it. That should be an index category – “nappable”.
    But this seems to have a lot more going for it than just the nap. Sounds awesome.

    Hope you are well rested now.

  11. My dog has a real thing against old men, which makes me feel horrible while walking him. There’s nothing worse than that look you get after explaining to people that your dog is maybe just a liiiittle bit high strung.
    The curry looks amazing! It’s on my list of stuff to cook in that book – such a long list though!

  12. hey everyone, thanks for all the comments. normally you know i’d be back at each one of you, but these days i am stricken with a nasty cold and it’s all i can do to keep myself upright, which i just wrote as “upgirth.” but know that i am reading them all, and reading them to the dogs as well, as appropriate.

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