Sometimes, I like simple.
Those meals that are just thrown together with little effort and less thought, the ones that somehow transcend their parts and become something quite wonderful because of either the sheer quality of their ingredients or the application of a transformative cooking process.
This is one such dish – a deep, rich and brilliantly straightforward Asian dish, the sort of dish that everybody should have on standby for those lazy days when nothing much happens.
There are two stages.
A long marinade, and a long, slow cook.
Both are as important as each other, both take a long time to do, but minutes to get ready. This is a recipe with a lot of waiting and not much action.
In a big blender, whizz up two medium onions, a thumb-sized piece of peeled fresh ginger, and six peeled cloves of garlic, with 100ml of red wine vinegar until it becomes a thick and smooth paste. Add a tablespoon of ground coriander, two teaspoons of ground cumin, a teaspoon of turmeric and a dash of cayenne pepper, up to half a teaspoon depending on taste and blend the spices in.
Season the marinade with a teaspoon of salt and pour it over about a kilo of cubed lamb or mutton, preferably mutton, and preferably on the bone, for it is in the bone where all the flavour hides.
Massage the marinade into the meat and refrigerate it for at least four hours. Longer, or overnight will not hurt.
To cook, transfer the meat and its marinade into a large pan and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat to the very minimum, cover and allow to bubble away for at least an hour and a half, perhaps longer. Watch the level of the liquids – the finished dish should be quite dry, but it may be necessary to add a little water through the cooking process to prevent the meat catching on the bottom of the pan. Whether you add water or not, be sure to stir periodically.
The dish is ready when the sauce clings to the meat and the meat falls apart under the slightest pressure of a fork.
Serve with rice, a side of peas and some plain yoghurt.
This is from the mother of all Asian cookbooks, Madhur Jaffrey’s The Essential Madhur Jaffrey.