Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Chocolatey Lamb Curry

Chocolate, ginger and chillies - these are a few of my favourite things. A good dose of chillies and chocolate release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and ginger stimulates the blood circulation. Three superfoods not to mention aphrodisiacs which deserve some loving attention.

You will find ginger and chillies in most curries; chocolate, however, is a new and bold addition. Given this was my first attempt at combining these three rather powerful ingredients in a curry I spent some time thinking about the composition of this recipe. What chocolate to use? Dark with at least 80 -90% cocoa content. Next which spices? Cinnamon and cardamom for their warm and fragrant notes. Chillies? Both fresh and ground. I left the seeds in for extra heat but you can leave them out or omit the fresh chillies altogether. As for chilli powder, I used Piment d'Espelette for its sweet and fruity flavour to soften the bitter element in the chocolate.

Next how to balance the heat from the chillies- with the addition of milk or cream to the gravy. Which pepper to season with? Sichuan pepper for its aromatic but mild notes. I also added a teaspoon of pomegranate powder for a tangy kick. Et voila! The composition of a balanced curry reaching all the taste buds: sweet, savoury, sour, and bitter.

But before you get to eat, enjoy the foreplay of scents take over your kitchen whilst making this thick and silky, chocolate laced curry which leaves your tongue tingling with a burst of flavours.

A curry to fall in love with.

Serve with a cranberry encrusted naan


Serves two


3 Lamb gigot chops (cut into mouth-sized pieces, keep a couple of bones to add flavour)
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
Two medium tomatoes (without skins) chopped
3 medium garlic cloves minced
2cm ginger minced plus 1cm julienned
1 medium red onion minced
2 red bird chillies chopped (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
4 bruised cardamom pods
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper
1 tsp pomegranate powder
2 tbsp milk
Salt to taste
20g dark chocolate
1/2 tsp garam masala
1//2 tsp ground piment d'Espelette
Handful coriander (and/ or cashew nuts to garnish)


1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan, when hot add the cinnamon and fry on medium to high heat for 40 seconds or until you smell the spice. Next add the cardamom pods, cook for 20 seconds, and finally add the cumin seeds for 10 seconds. Add the onion to prevent the spices from burning, stir continuously. When onions become translucent, add the minced garlic and ginger. Cook until the oil separates from the onions, garlic and ginger.

2. Add the chillies, pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, pomegranate powder, salt and the tomatoes. Mix all the ingredients. Pour in the milk and cover the pan. Simmer on medium heat until tomatoes are reduced then add the lamb and coat in the sauce. Check the pan every 5-10 minutes to scrape the bottom and add a little water to prevent the spices from sticking to the base.

3. When the lamb is cooked, turn the heat off and add the chocolate pieces, piment d'Espelette and garam masala. Stir to combine the ingredients, the sauce should turn brown.

4. Garnish with coriander (and/ or cashew nuts). You could also grate some chocolate slivers for decoration. Serve with rice or breads.

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