Lamb is fancy. That's always been my impression. Overpriced has probably popped into my mind. Unsuitable if you're trying to make the food budget stretch for a family of five, which includes two fussy males, aged 6 and 12 years.
So when Tony Varga at TLC Meats suggested lamb for this week's Butcher's Hook, a tiny bit of scepticism crept in. Would it be wasted on the food- challenged youngsters?
"It's lean and trim," touted Tony. Bonus, I thought. Always great to get meat into the kids other than fat-soaked sausages.
"Flash fry the lamb steaks - two minutes a side and that's it. You don't need much oil and they certainly don't need tenderising," continued Tony.
OK, so that was one option. What else can we do with 1 kilogram of lean lamb?
Cube it and create kebabs: Lamb, a piece of green capsicum, lamb, red capsicum, another piece of lamb. "Finish with a cherry tomato on top."
Marinate the lamb first, I wondered.
"You could marinate with honey, mint and rosemary but, personally, I just like the flavour of the lamb," advised the expert.
Later, as the TCL Meats staff were wrapping up my $30 worth of lamb, we mused on marinade ins and outs.
If your lamb marinade contains something sweet the meat burns more easily.
Don't cook it on a hot plate, on top of direct heat. Opt for a rack in the oven or the racks you find on new-model barbecues.
What else, I wondered, thinking out aloud about the possibilities of a curry. In our household, curries are always on the menu, regardless of weather.
"Yep, that would work," says Tony.
Back home the curry cook created a Lamb Jalfrezi for two. In went green capsicum and chilli from the garden, as well as eight different spices.
The next night, the kids got Mum's marinated lamb, pan-fried in the trusty cast iron pan. (I forgot I wasn't supposed to put it on direct heat but only a teaspoon of brown sugar went into the marinade so no burning was evident.)
The Foy threesome devoured it and asked for more. I was gobsmacked. Clearly the quality cut combined with a fab marinade made for succulent eating. The 6-year-old raved the most, proving that it's worthwhile splashing out on the superior stuff if you're trying to factor more lean meat into their diet.
A special ingredient in the marinade was a spice rub gifted by friend Cindy for Christmas.
For our third dish, we choose another curry. This one, cooked in a casserole dish in the oven for three hours, was tender. Potatoes bulked the meal out.
Peel, halve and roughly chop one onion. Cube about 350 grams of lamb. Cook the onion and lamb in a hot balti pan (or small wok or frying pan). Cook it fast in small pieces.
Add chopped cloves of garlic, cut ginger, 2 teaspoons of cumin and 1 teaspoon each of garam masala, chilli, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, ground coriander and paprika. Add half a can of chopped tomatoes, a splash of water and cook for 15 minutes before adding green pepper.
Garnish with chopped coriander and more garam masala. Serve over rice.
SLOW-COOK LAMB CURRY
Coat lamb in spices along with a small amount of flour.
The spices are cumin, garam masala, chilli, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, ground coriander and paprika.
Put a large casserole-type pan on a medium to high heat and add oil. Add two chopped onions and cook until softened and golden. Add the lamb and lightly brown.
Add stock, black pepper, tin tomatoes and water. To bulk out the meal add cubed potatoes about an hour through the cooking.
Continue to cook at 50-80 degrees for another three hours.
Delicious with basmati rice, poppadoms, a dash of an Indian pickle and natural yoghurt.
Combine light soy sauce, olive oil, a dash of tomato sauce and the spice rub (coarse salt, light brown sugar, paprika, dried oregano, dried thyme, ground black pepper).
- © Fairfax NZ News
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