Saturday, May 8, 2010

Indian-Spiced Lamb, Chickpeas, and Spinach

I love Indian food. Unfortunately, Indian food doesn't always love me back - something about all the cream and butter, I suppose. Every so often, I try to make an Indian dish, and up until recently, they all ended up as failures. The turning point was when I visited the Indian grocery store down the road, and came away with bags of spices for a fraction of the price that they were in the supermarket (if the supermarket even had all of them!). Finally, Indian dishes I cooked began to taste similar to their restaurant counterparts, if not quite the same. Close enough!

Many Indian dishes are a bit more involved than the usual Slacker Gourmet fare, but the few I've cooked have given me a better understanding of the spices involved in creating that distinctive Indian flavor profile. Be sure to use spices from the Indian grocery if possible - Indian red chili powder is very different from McCormick's chili powder. A closer substitute would be cayenne pepper - but be sure to start with less than is called for and add more to taste.

Indian Spiced Lamb, Chickpeas, and Spinach
Inspired by Spicy Sautéed Chickpeas with Beef and Cilantro

  • 1 lb ground lamb (or ground meat of your choice)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
  • 16oz frozen cut-leaf spinach
  • 1-2 tsp vegetable oil, for sautéing
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp red chili powder (cayenne pepper would be an acceptable substitute, start at 1/4 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • a couple squirts of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • plain lowfat yogurt, for garnish
Heat oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. When oil shimmers, add cumin seeds, and fry for about a minute, until they darken slightly and start to pop. Add ground meat, season with some salt and pepper, and use a spatula to break it into bits. Brown for about 3 minutes, then add the chickpeas (you did remember to reserve the liquid for later, right?). Let the meat and chickpeas cook together for another 7-10 minutes, until the meat is fully browned and the chickpeas darken a bit.

While the meat and chickpeas are cooking, defrost the spinach in the microwave and squeeze out some of the water. You can throw the frozen spinach directly in, but defrosting it beforehand will speed up the cooking. Once the meat and chickpeas have browned, add the spinach and combine well to heat through. Add the red chili powder, cilantro, and garlic, and pour in the reserved liquid from the chickpeas. Stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for another few minutes, and stir in a couple squirts of lemon juice to finish. Serve hot, with a good dollop of plain lowfat yogurt (I like to mix it right in to add creaminess and extra tang).

Yes, the instructions for this recipe are a bit longer than the usual Slacker Gourmet entry, but it really comes together quickly - under 1/2 hour from start to finish. For a tasty, warm, and pretty healthy recipe made entirely from ingredients I usually have in my pantry, I consider that a win, and hopefully you will too!

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