Monday, 23 November 2015

Justine Pattison's Lamb Rogan Josh

OCD Panic Rating: 2/5
Handwashes: Average

With the end of the year approaching, I've had to go back to my list of horror foods and work out what I really need to be cooking in order to tackle my OCD.  Thanks to The Great British Bake Off, I've cooked more with eggs in the past three months than I probably had in the previous three years.  I've also had a few attempts at making things with mushrooms, and it turns out they're nowhere near as scary as I'd expected.

Which brings me to meat.  I specified my three main horror foods as fish, pork and chicken, but I'm not a great fan of handling any meat at all.  I've just about got myself comfortable with beef, mainly because you can eat it raw when it's fresh, but I'm still struggling with the idea of cooking much else. that basis, I decided to have a go with a simple recipe using lamb.  As with beef, it's something you can enjoy rare, so it rings fewer alarm bells with me than other meats.  I returned to one of my favourite cookbooks: Takeaway Favourites Without The Calories.  The version of lamb rogan josh in here is a one-pot wonder.  You cook down the onions and add the other fresh ingredients before browning the meat off.  Then it's a few more additional herbs and spices, some tinned tomatoes, and straight into the oven for a couple of hours.  I barely had to handle the meat at all.

The main problem I had with this recipe came from the sheer volume of ingredients that it used.  1.2kgs of lamb is not a small amount, and I was becoming increasingly concerned that it simply wouldn't fit into my casserole dish.  To make the browning of the meat easier, I split the mixture between the casserole dish and a large frying pan, and prepped a second large dish to cook it in if there was too much.  As it was, the casserole dish was just big enough, and I mean just.  The dish was full to the brim, bringing back horrible visions of my tennis cake leaking out of the baking tin during my GBBO challenge.  I at least learnt from that mistake, putting a large baking tray on the bottom of the oven to catch any potential overspill.

I sat back for an hour as the curry cooked in the oven.  It needed a stir at this point and I was slightly concerned to see how little the water had boiled off.  It didn't have that thick sauce consistency that I was looking for.  If I was doing this again, I would have put it back in the oven without its lid, giving the steam an outlet.  But that's Captain Hindsight talking.  As it was, after another half hour, the lid was taken off and some spinach was stirred in, with another ten minutes in the oven just to help the spinach wilt down into the mixture.  I love spinach.  There's something about the way you can have a boatload of the stuff and it shrinks down into virtually nothing when you stir it into a mixture.  Let me tell you, if that wasn't the case, there is no way on God's green earth that anything else would have fitted into that casserole dish.  Perhaps the two-dish approach would have been better.

I wonder if the spinach added extra water to the curry, particularly as I washed it pretty heavily before I put it in (gravelly spinach is the worst).  The sauce was definitely too wet when I took it out of the oven.  Now, there are a few ways that this can be dealt with.  You can put the dish back in the oven (sans lid) for a bit longer.  You can cook it on the hob for a while.  You can use cornflour to thicken up the liquid as well.  The only problem with these ideas is that they all take time and I was really hungry.  Really hungry.  I tried a piece of the lamb and it was beautifully tender and I knew that I couldn't wait another half an hour to eat.

So we had lamb rogan josh soup, with poppadoms and naan bread:

It had a good flavour.  Like any proper rogan josh, the sauce had a serious kick of spice to it.  Also positive was that you could taste the individual flavours in the curry.  There was quite a lot of garlic, ginger and chilli in there, but there was also a hit of fennel, cumin and coriander that gave the flavour a bit more depth.  There's no question that it would have worked better as a proper sauce but curry soup is a decent meal in itself, particularly when you have the big chunks of fall-apart lamb to enjoy.

This recipe made six portions, so we have two frozen dinners ready to go.  With these, we should be able to get that nice curry sauce consistency when we reheat it on the hob.  The flavours were great; it was just the impatience of the cook that stopped it working perfectly.

(Editor's note: we did reheat the curry from frozen one evening and, sure enough, the mixture thickened into a perfectly formed sauce.  It still had the depth of flavour and the heavy hit of spice, but did not have to be eaten with a soup spoon.  A definite improvement.)

Key Points:

  • Too much liquid is easy enough to remedy, but it can definitely throw your cooking times off if you're preparing other side dishes at the same time.  With slow-cook recipes, check the liquid level at frequent intervals: it's easier to rectify if you catch the problem early.
  • I've said it before (and not learnt from it apparently) but you really do need to check the size of your pots and pans before you start.  I had twice as much washing-up to do with the recipe because I was disorganised.

Win Rating: 3/5 for the curry soup.  4/5 when cooked properly!

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