India: in search of the perfect curry, 320pp.
by Rick Stein
BBC Books, London, 2013
Cooking on page 232
Regular visitors to this and/or my travel blog will know that I love India and Indian food. So I was keen to borrow this book from friend and neighbour, Lyn.
Rick Stein has produced several country-based cookbooks that accompany his various BBC television cooking series. This one first aired a couple of years back. At the time, I saw and enjoyed several episodes. By chance, tonight I saw a re-run of the episode with this dish.
Stein learned this mutton-chop recipe, made with lamb cutlets, at Sanjiv Bali’s restaurant in the Amber Fort just outside the pink city, Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan.
Lamb cutlet spiced with fennel (Shahi chaap amber)
12 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised with a rolling pin
8cm piece cinnamon stick
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 Indian bay leaves
1½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
1.5 litres whole (full-fat) milk
1kg lamb cutlets (from a rack of lamb)
75ml vegetable oil
For the batter
250g plain flour
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom (seeds from 30 green pods)
1 tsp salt
3 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds
2 free-range egg whites
Pinch chat masala, to finish
Put the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, bay leaves, black peppercorns and ginger into a deep, sturdy pan and add the milk and 500ml/18fl oz of water. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the lamb cutlets and simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Leave to cool in the liquid (the lamb should still be pink in the middle at this stage).
For the batter, sift together the flour and cornflour in a bowl, then stir in the black pepper, fennel, ginger, cardamom and salt, followed by the chillies. Lightly beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until just frothy and then whisk them into the dry ingredients.
Strain the milk and remove the lamb cutlets from the pan. Add enough of the cool milky stock to make a thin batter the consistency of single cream.
Add the cooled cutlets to the batter and turn to coat evenly. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Take a few cutlets from the batter, add to the pan (don’t overcrowd it) and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden-brown. Keep these warm while you cook the rest.
Sprinkle with chat masala, and serve hot.
How it played out
Racks of lamb were on special for $20 a kilo. I bought one that weighed just under a kilo, and sliced off the individual cutlets. There were nine (so Poor John would get an extra).
I cook a lot of Indian food, but this recipe and its steps weren’t familiar to me, so I followed the instructions. I even made a special trip to the supermarket to buy full-fat milk.
Served with steamed broccoli and roasted potato wedges. I normally would have made a couple of vegetable curries to go with this dish, but I ran out of time.
The finished dish was tasty enough and it wasn’t hard to make but, cripes, it was fiddly.
When I spend the good part of an afternoon simmering, sifting, frothing, straining, battering, frying and dirtying way too many dishes, I expect the end result to knock my socks off.
This dish was nice but, in my opinion, it’s much better suited to letting someone in a restaurant do all the fiddly, messy work. No doubt, that’s why Stein got the recipe from a restaurant.
As a complete aside and in our experience, the condiment (and last ingredient listed) is also spelled chaat masala. It’s similar to garam masala.
Over the last few years, we’ve spent many wonderful months travelling overland in India. We’ve been east to west and north to south, and never tired of the food, adventures and especially the wildlife. One of our most memorable days was spending almost an hour following a lusty and lovelorn leopard.
I admit to being highly tempted by a trip towards the end of this year (2018). It’s in northern India and in search of the snow leopard. Anyone interested?