Lamb and Butternut Squash Curry
When we have friends to dinner, we often prepare the main course ahead. This gives us plenty of time to enjoy visiting. For night like this, we tap into our repertoire of long simmered dishes; sturdy stews are the little black dress of entertaining at home.
Slightly sweet butternut squash and coconut milk balance the rich flavors of lamb in this curry, perfect for the chillier nights of early fall. Make the dish a day or two ahead to allow the flavors of the stew to develop. Chilling also gives time for extra fat to rise to the surface and be easily removed.
Yield: 6 servings
2 or more Tablespoons of olive or peanut oil
2 ½ pounds lamb cut into 1 ½-inch cubes, from the shoulder or leg
1 cup diced onions, about 1 medium onion
½-cup diced celery, about 1 long stalk
2 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 can coconut milk
1 to 1 ¼ cups cubed butternut squash
Sautéed spinach or other greens, as needed
Basmati rice, cooked, as needed
Papadams, as needed
Lime wedges and chopped herbs such as chives or cilantro
- Season the lamb lightly with salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add 2 Tablespoons of the oil and half of the lamb to the pan. (Spread the meat out into one layer. If the pan seems overcrowded, remove some of the pieces of lamb.) Cook without stirring until the lamb browns on one side, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn over the pieces of lamb and brown on the other sides. Remove the cooked lamb to a large bowl.
- If the pan seems dry, add another tablespoon of oil, and the rest of the lamb pieces. Brown the lamb as you did with the first batch. Remove the lamb from the pan.
- Add about ¼ cup of water to the pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen the dried bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquid into the bowl with the lamb.
- Drain off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat. Or add some oil if the pan is dry.
- Add celery and onions. Reduce the heat to medium and cook stirring occasionally until the vegetable brown and soften. If you think the pan is too dry and the onions are sticking, add a few Tablespoons of water and let them simmer a few minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two.
- Dump the vegetables and any liquid in the pan into the bowl with the lamb.
- Wipe out the pan and place it over medium high heat. Add the curry powder, cumin, turmeric and coriander and let it toast just until fragrant and smoking slightly. The dump the lamb, vegetables and liquid back into the pan. Stir to combine all of the spices with the liquid. Add the coconut milk, cubed squash and chopped cilantro. (This is the time to check your seasonings. You want to make sure there is a noticeable flavor to the broth that is neither faint nor overpowering. Add a little more of your dried seasonings Add a little salt if you feel it is quite bland. But be careful of adding too much. You can add more salt later.)
- Transfer the stew to a Dutch oven or covered casserole if necessary. Bring it to a gently boil. Cover and place in the oven. Allow the stew to cook for 1 to 1 ¼ hours until the lamb is tender.
- Let the stew cool for several hours or overnight. Skim off some of the excess fat.
- To serve reheat the stew. Serve it with sautéed spinach, cooked basmati rice, papadams, wedges of lime and chopped chives
Cover photo by Priscilla Martel