Monday, December 31, 2007

As a korma simmers in the kitchen ...

One thing (among many) that I enjoy about having a day off from work is the opportunity it grants me to take the time to make something elaborate, something special, for dinner. Doesn't happen very often, but when it does I like to make something out of the ordinary. Tonight is one of those nights.

I'm sneaking in a quick post while tonight's dinner, lamb korma, simmers in the big nonstick pan for an hour.

I was lucky enough to find a good price for semi-boneless lamb (not a whole leg, but slices thereof) this afternoon at the supermarket, so I picked up a can of coconut milk and some cilantro (among many other items; I intend to be busy in the kitchen in the next 24 hours!). To me, lamb = Indian food, most likely korma (although I want to make a makhani, too), which = love. My husband and I both love Indian lamb recipes, so this would indeed be a special treat (I rarely bring meat home, and lamb is almost unheard of except for a holiday meal).

The recipe for korma that I chose, from "1,000 Indian Recipes," calls for 1/2 cup of cashew paste - soak cashews in hot water for 45 minutes, then blend in a blender with a few tablespoons of water until a paste emerges. Well ... I ran out of cashews but I had plenty of pistachios (my husband's next favorite nut) and sliced almonds, so I used them instead. And rather than using water, I poured in a bit of lite coconut milk. Naughty me!

I do my best to avoid substitutions or deviate from a given recipe. At least, not til I've made it so many times that I feel comfortable enough to try something different. So for the rest of the recipe I stayed within the lines: cardamom, whole dried red chiles, bay leaves, ground coriander and cumin, a dash of nutmeg and mace. The smell of minced onions, garlic and fresh ginger filled the house and drew my husband out from his office in the back with exclamations that boy, whatever that stuff is, it smells great! I put everything together and he can barely wait for the contents of the pan to gently boil down to a thickened sauce of spiced goodness.

If there are two spices that complement each other perfectly, it's coriander and cumin. One is gentle and sweet, a subtle backdrop with a supporting role to its sharper, more vivid companion. Pair them together, as in so many Indian recipes, and you have the makings of something wonderful, something you can never quite put your finger on but you know it when you find it: a luscious balancing act that dances on your palate like two divinely orchestrated dancers. Cooking with coriander and cumin is like reuniting lost lovers, and it brings a smile to my face every time.

Time to stir the pot - I'll let you know how dinner goes!