This recipe is based on this one at Epicurious.com. They look similar but are really quite different. Garam masala is sort of curry powder, but it lacks turmeric (the spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow color). Many of the spices are the same (cumin, cardamom, black pepper, coriander) but without turmeric, garam masala is sweeter. Sounds good to me! Nowadays, a well-stocked supermarket carries both so you don’t have to make your own or find a specialty shop. I do make my own (because I’m crazy like that) and have included the recipe at the end.
I also added the lime juice. This is a very earthy dish. Though the tomatoes add some acid, they really aren’t very bright after cooking with the lamb and spices for an hour. The lime juice brings back some of the high notes. I happen to believe that acid is a very under-rated ingredient. Salt is important but you can only go so far before the dish gets too salty. Acid enhances many flavors in another way, making it complementary to salt
Indian Lamb and Lentil Stew
1 pound lamb, cut into ½” pieces (from the leg or sirloin is best)
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon garam masala
1 ½ cups tomatoes (diced, pureed or crushed will all work)
2 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
3 carrots, cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup frozen green peas
juice of 1 lime or lemon
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot. Add oil, then the lamb. Cook until the lamb is browned. Add onions, ginger, and garlic. Lower heat to medium. Cook until onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garam masala and mix in to onions and lamb. It will become fragrant within 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, water, brown lentils, carrots, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and carrots. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least an hour, but longer won’t hurt. Five minutes before serving, mix in peas. Cover and cook about 5 minutes to warm up peas. Mix in lime or lemon juice. If served as is, this will serve about 4 people. If you serve it over rice, it will serve 6.
(makes ¾ cup)
the seeds from 1 Tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 4″ cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
½ Tablespoon whole cloves
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
¼ cup cumin seeds
¼ cup coriander seeds
Grind the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cumin, and coriander until the mix is an even texture. Store in a tightly sealed jar. Will lose its pungency over time but keeps surprisingly well.
Recipe from Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni, William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1980.