Ever on the hunt for something new, my eyes stumbled upon just such an ingredient while flipping through the pages of Curry Cuisine, my cookbook of the month. Though it’s become very fashionable of late, goat is something I’ve enjoyed for years—preferably Jamaican Curry Goat. It wasn’t the goat. But listed in the ingredients for this “fiery” curry was something I had never heard of, much less even knew existed—black cardamoms. Sure, I’ve used plenty of green cardamoms in my time, but black? This was something that demanded further research. First stop Wickipedia: “Black cardamom (also known as brown cardamom, elaichi, thảo quả and tsao-ko) is a plant in the family Zingiberaceae. Its seed pods have a strong, smoky, camphor-like flavor.” Interesting. Not really a substitute for green Indian cardamoms, the black variety are more used in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking in long-braised meat dishes. Laal Maas is just such a Rajasthani dish, so I had to try it.
I got my goat at an Afro-Caribbean market for $2.99/lb. Why pay triple or quadruple at Whole Foods? This is goat, people. Maybe it’s exotic in the west, but this is everyman’s food throughout the rest of the world. Although the goat was frozen, when thawed it was bright red and already pre-cut in cubes with plenty of bone attached. (You know what that means—more flavor). Once again, the ingredients were pretty basic as far as Indian cooking goes, but with high cholesterol in the genes, I just could not get myself to use the 5 ounces of ghee, or clarified butter that the recipe called for. I cut about half that with some vegetable oil. I also omitted bay leaves, because I didn’t have any, but I’m not a big fan of bay leaves anyway. This recipe called for cinnamon leaves, too, another new ingredient.
I was more than happy to use 30 dried red chilies as the recipe called for, but I found that maybe I should have used a few more as this was certainly not “the hottest dish in the chapter” as advertised (maybe they were referring to the food porn shot of the finished product). But, the dish was scrumptious, none-the-less, and paired with some brown basmathi rice; some lentils stewed in coconut milk (Sri Lankan style); and a salad, this was my meal for the day (and probably tomorrow and the next day).
25-35 dried red chilies, stems removed 6 green cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp cloves 5 black cardamom pods
5 1/2 oz. (150g) ghee or vegetable oil 2 1/2 oz. (75g) garlic cloves, fine chop
9 oz. (250g) plain yogurt, whisked smooth 9 oz. (250g) onions, fine chop
2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted 2 1/2 lb (1kg) lamb or goat, cubed
1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander 3 cups lamb stock or water
1 tsp. red chili powder 2 tbsp cilantro leaves, fine chop
2 tsp. salt
3 cinnamon or bay leaves
1) Set Aside 3 or 4 of the dried chilies for later use; soak the remainder in 1/2 cup water. Also set aside 4-6 cloves and 1 tbsp ghee.
2) Mix yogurt with cumin seeds, ground coriander, chili powder, and salt in a bowl.
3) Heat the rest of the ghee in a heavy pan. Add the remaining cloves, cinnamon leaves and green and black cardamoms. When they begin to crackle and change color, add the garlic. Saute for 2 minutes then add onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until onions are golden brown.
4) Add the meat and stir for 2-3 minutes. Drain the soaked red chilies and add to the pan. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Add the spiced yogurt and cook another 10-12 minutes.
5) Add the stock or water and bring to a boil. Then cover pan, reduce heat and simmer until meat is tender (at least 2 hours). Adjust the seasoning; remove from heat and keep warm
6) To temper the curry, heat the reserved ghee in a ladle or small pan and add the reserved cloves and chilies. Heat for 1-2 minutes before pouring over the lamb curry. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.