This one is for you, Robin.
Robin Bergstrom McCormick is my sister. I am dedicating this blog to her, because like me, she is a lamb lover, and even more so, a lover of the curried lamb with toppings that my mom always made from any leftover leg of lamb. I think my mom intentionally bought a larger leg of lamb than she would need just so she would have some left over to make curried lamb. Below are the step-by-step of my recent adventures with leg of lamb and curried lamb.
Lamb Doesn’t Have a Season
In spite of the branding of Spring Lamb, lamb doesn’t really have a season. Lamb that is born in the spring is slaughtered in the fall, or later, once it has had time to put on some weight. (BTW, it is typically the rams that are culled; not a great deal to be the male of a species in the agricultural world.) Lamb is sold as lamb rather than mutton as long as it is less than 1 year old at the time it is slaughtered. Confused? Then there is lamb from New Zealand or Australia, which have seasons opposite to ours in the northern hemisphere. New Zealand lamb being sold now in the US was born in our fall (their spring) and harvested in our spring (their fall). Left to their own devices, ewes will breed in the fall and deliver in late winter/early spring, but they are not left to their own devices and are bred at different times of the year to spread the supply of lamb over the year. I bought the lamb that I used in the leg of lamb and curried lamb below from Walt’s Market in Old Saybrook, which only sources fresh US lamb. The leg of lamb I used weighed 8 pounds, so I expect it was towards the 1 year end of the spectrum and was probably born last spring.
I have been buying Walt’s loin chops for grilling throughout the winter and spring, to cook up 10-minute meals with my Trifecta greens, what I call Trifecta trifectas: easy, delicious and healthy meals, made in 10 minutes with lean protein and greens. And I have been buying Walt’s lamb shoulder for tasty stews. As part of this love letter to all things lamb, I show some of those dishes after my step-by-step for roast leg of lamb and curried lamb.
Roast Leg of Lamb
I started with this beautiful 8 lb leg of lamb from Walt’s:
Used this fresh rosemary, Trifecta spring garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper to flavor the roast:
Snipped the most tender parts of the rosemary and slivered some of the garlic:
Inserted rosemary sprigs and garlic slivers into slits in the lamb:
Chopped the rest of the rosemary and garlic fine and added to some olive oil and salt and pepper:
Spread this mix over the lamb:
Covered the lamb with plastic wrap and let it stand 1 hour:
Roasted lamb at 375F for 2 hrs till medium-rare (145F). I was tracking it pretty closely, but the roast hit 150F inspite of my best efforts, rather than the 145F target.
As plated with some of my Persian Jeweled Rice (see A Persian Feast) and some dressed Trifecta greens. The meat shown here was sliced from the outside, so is more medium-well than medium-rare, but very tasty and tender nonetheless. The flavor of the rosemary and garlic had suffused the lamb and was awesome. In fact, it was so awesome that I completely to forgot to make gravy from the pan drippings.
Lamb Saag with White Rice
The spirit of this dish, as my mom made it, was as a way to use left over roast leg of lamb. The way she did it was to just add curry powder to the leftover gravy she made from the pan drippings, then she sliced the leftover lamb into bite size pieces, added them to the curry gravy and heated through. She made bowls of crumbled bacon, crumbled hard boiled egg, sliced scallions, raisins, shredded coconut and roasted peanuts that we passed around and put on top. My mom claimed this was an Indonesian curry recipe. As the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesians would never use bacon. Maybe the rest, but they are basically more of an expression of 1950’s America than Indonesia. My sister’s family has added other toppings to the original six: avocado, tomato, jalapeño, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, apple and chutney…a reflection of today’s California.
I had one lonely egg left in the fridge, plus some scallions, bacon and chutney. I had some raisins in the cupboard, plus some hazelnuts and sliced almonds I thought would be good toppings. I bought some coconut, peanuts, tomato, jalapeño and avocado at Stop & Shop. So I was all set with the toppings.
For the curry itself, I decided to jazz up my mom’s curry gravy by instead making a Lamb Saag with some of the leftover lamb and some Trifecta greens. I also had some other things on hand that I thought would work, so decided to go whole hog with the theme of using up leftovers. So I took everything that was in the fridge and laid it out:
From left to right: my Persian Jeweled Rice at the top, which I thought I could use as a side with the finished curried lamb in lieu of the white rice my mom used (I changed my mind after trying it…too many competing flavors between the Jeweled Rice and all the toppings for the lamb); bacon, an egg and scallions in front of the rice, and hazelnuts, sliced almonds and raisins to the right, which I used as some of the toppings; beef stock, parsley and a mess of various Trifecta greens including kale, mustard, chard and red sorrel, which Il substituted for the spinach typically used in a Lamb Saag; a little leftover Trifecta sweet basil pesto in the ramekin, red onion in the blue bowl, garlic, ginger and yellow onions…to serve as the “sofrito” base of the Lamb Saag; some spices I pulled out…curry powder, cardamom, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, turmeric and cumin…I bloom them with the sofrito, then add the beef stock and some water, simmer for awhile with some of the parsley and the stems from the greens, then add the chopped greens; and finally, at far right, the leftover roast leg of lamb, some of which I cube and add at the very end. Not shown: fresh ground pepper and sea salt, which I use to season the Lamb Saag at the start of its simmer and again at the very end; the toppings I bought at the market; some Greek yogurt I use to thicken the stew; and some Goya medium grain rice I use to make white rice instead of using the leftover Persian Rice.
Making the Toppings:
Fried some bacon till crisp, drained on paper towel and crumbled.
Boiled an egg using the Food Lab method (bring 2 qts water to boil, carefully add raw egg(s), boil for 30 sec, add 12 ice cubes and return to boil, reduce heat and simmer at 190F for 11 minutes, then peel under cold running water.)
Comes out perfect every time.
I also sliced the scallions; toasted, peeled and chopped about 1/4 cup of hazelnuts*; and toasted about 1/4 cup of sliced almonds. Chopped a tomato, a jalapeño pepper and an avocado, drizzling some lemon juice over the chopped avocado pieces to keep them from browning. Put each of the ingredients in its own bowl, including the coconut, peanuts, chutney and pumpkin seeds.
*I forgot about the hazelnuts after I put them into the toaster oven for a 5-10 minute bake at 350F. Fortunately, I set the timer on the toaster oven for 10 minutes, beyond which they will burn. They were just 1 click short of burnt, and even after I removed the skins by rubbing in a dish towel, they were very dark, almost black. But the flavor was intense. I usually don’t push the toasting that far, but think I will do it again in the future, on purpose.
Making the Sofrito:
I chopped about 1/2 of a large red onion and 1 medium yellow onion, about 2 cups total:
Peeled some ginger (best way to do this is with a spoon):
Grated on a microplane. Just used about 2 T.
Sautéd the onion over medium heat for 10 minutes in the fat from cooking the bacon, plus some of the fat from the lamb roasting pan, then added the ginger, the pesto and 2 cloves of minced garlic and sautéd for another two minutes.
Blooming the Spices:
Pushed the sofrito to the edge of the skillet and bloomed (blooming is cooking spices briefly on direct heat to bring out their fragrance) the spices in center of the pan for a minute, mixed with the sofrito and sautéed for another minute. I used 2 T of curry powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds, and 1/2 tsp ground cardamom.
Simmering the Sofrito and Broth:
Added the cup or so of beef stock I had in the fridge, plus the juices from the lamb roasting pan, and a couple of cups of water. Added a bundle of parsley sprigs, and a bundle of the stems I trimmed from the greens. Covered and simmered for 30 minutes.
Adding the Greens:
Stemmed and chopped about 3 cups of greens (used the stems in the step above):
Removed the stems and parsley and added the chopped greens and simmered uncovered for 10 minutes:
Adding the Lamb:
Cubed about 2 cups of the roast leg of lamb, added to the greens, and simmered uncovered for 5 minutes. Added 3 T of whole milk Greek yogurt to thicken it a bit:
Making the Rice
I made a plain white rice to go with the Lamb Saag and its 12 toppings, using the recipe in Puerto Rican Cookery that I have been using for 40 years. In my view, Puerto Ricans make the best rice in the world. It is not that insipid American fluffy stuff, nor is it sticky like Asian rice. Each kernel of rice is distinct, with a nice bite to it. You need to use a medium grain rice. I use the one sold by Goya. The proportions are 2 cups of rice to 3 cups of water. You bring the water, 4 T olive oil and 2 tsp of sea salt to a boil. While this is happening, you put the rice in a strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold running water. Drain well and add to the boiling water. Boil it till the water disappears from view down little holes in the rice, like this:
Then you turn it once with a fork from bottom to top, cover, cook on low heat for 10 min, turn again once with a fork from bottom to top, cover, and cook on low heat for another 10 min.
Plating the Lamb Saag with the Rice and Toppings:
Here is the Lamb Saag with the white rice and the 12 toppings:
This was really good.
Other Lamb Adventures
Lamb Loin Chops with Trifecta Greens:
Marinaded the lamb in Trifecta garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, then grilled them and garnished with Trifecta Amaranth microgreens. Dressed the greens with olive oil, coarse ground mustard, lemon juice, Trifecta garlic, salt and pepper.
Shakshuka with Lamb Kebab:
Shakshuka is eggs poached in a spicy sauce of red bell pepper, tomato and harissa, garnished with dollops of whole milk Greek yogurt. I aded some leftover lamb kebabs.
Lamb Kebab with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce in a Homemade Pita:
I made the lamb kebabs from ground leg of lamb at Walt’s Market. See my blog: https://theperishablecook.com/fig-school-iv-and-weekend-kitchen-ii/
Lamb with Ramps, Asparagus, Roasted Potatoes and Romesco Sauce:
See my blog: https://theperishablecook.com/ramps/
Grilled Loin Chops with Trifecta Chard:
The chard is in a Tahini sauce with buttered pine nuts. The recipe is from the Jerusalem cookbook. It is amazing. See my blog: https://theperishablecook.com/trifectai-inspirations-grilled-lamb-chops-with-chard/
Berbere Braised Lamb with Walandan Jeweled Vegetable Pilau:
This is from a recipe put up by a Somalian cook in answer to the question, “What would Black Panther be eating tonight?”
Lamb Tangine with Couscous:
From a recipe put up by Overseas Adventure Travel to try to entice me to take their tour of Morocco.