Lamb and plum curry

Lamb and plum curry

Lamb with plums? Isn’t that a bit of an odd combination? Well yes, it is a bit different, but it works. Hell, it doesn’t just work, it works brilliantly. Stepping back from my initial surprise, it struck me as slightly bizarre how programmed people are when it comes to food.

You know, the whole white wine with fish, meat and vegetable, sweet stuff for dessert thing. When you really examine our foodie assumptions (I’m generalizing massively here) many of them don’t really stack up. After all, I grew up eating apple sauce with pork and thinking that mouldy cheese was a delicacy. Suddenly lamb and plums doesn’t seem that odd.

As soon as you start looking around at what people eat around the world, whole other realms of culinary experience open up. SE Asia demonstrated the fine act of balancing strong flavours, birds eye chillies, fish sauce and curry for breakfast. Morocco mixed meat and fruit with delicous abandon and India introduced me to the art of blending spices.

That’s all a generalisation of course, because when you delve into any cuisine you start to see where it bleeds into other cultures. Even the ones you’re most familiar with. After all, the British were mixing fruit and meat back in the middle ages and many spices like cinnamon were brought to the UK during the crusades.

All of which is to say, this isn’t such an odd combo. What it is, is delicious, interesting and – to me at least – exciting and new. The plums give the tender lamb a honeyed edge not unlike a Moroccan tagine, but with a less pronounced sweetness. The spicing is also different, there’s more heat and pungency and the cardamom adds a beautiful aroma.

Like all curries this benefits from cooking the day before you want to eat it. That way the flavours really melt into one another and you end up with something quite delicious.

Lamb and plum curry
Serves four with rice and a side.

This is taken and adapted from Camellia Panjabi’s 50 great curries of India and is of Hyderabadi origin. If you’re interested in curries, then this comes highly recommended.

1 shoulder of lamb – boned, trimmed and diced
3 medium onions – finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander – finely chopped
6 plums – half finely chopped and half sliced into wedges
4 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
1 thumb ginger – peeled and finely chopped
3 green chillies – finely chopped
3 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
1 inch cinnamon stick
Qtr tsp ground turmeric
1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp chilli powder
Sea salt
250ml lamb stock or water

Heat some oil in casserole and fry the onions for about 10 mins until they are soft and starting to colour.

Add the garlic, ginger, green chillies, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon then stir fir a minute. Add the turmeric, coriander and chilli powders and give it a good stir.

chuck in the lamb and and little salt then stir and fry fir five minutes. Cover and leave the lamb to cook in its own juices for another ten mins.

Put in the finely chopped plums and half the coriander leaves. Pour over the stock and simmer over a low heat for at least 30 mins, adding the wedges about 10 mins before you’re ready to serve.

6 Responses to “Lamb and plum curry”

  1. Vicky @ Ursine Cuisine

    You’re right, this reminds me of a Moroccan tagine – I quite often make a lamb and prune tagine – this just elimates the drying process!

    I would imagine that the acidity from the plums would also tenderise the meat really well, like papaya or kiwi in a marinade. Fruit and meat is such a wonderful combination – well done for exploring ever more interesting variations!

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

  2. Kavey

    I love meat and fruit combos, always have. Even tinned peaches with bacon from a hotel breakfast buffet works for me. Mmmm!

  3. The Grubworm

    @Vicky – i think you’re right re the acidity, it’s one of the joys of fruit and meat dishes

    @Kavey – i would give that a go for sure… sweet, salty and meaty. Yum.

  4. Sharmila

    Not that weird at all. You get certain Persian-derived Indian dishes that draw on this influence. For example, a proper traditional lamb biryani would include aloo bookhara – dried golden plums, which become gorgeously sticky and tender after cooking. I think I remember reading about the great focus on fruit and meat combinations in Persian dishes, primarily because fruits were seen as so fragrant, expensive and beautiful. So an opportunity to stick some fruit in something was probably also an opportunity to demonstrate your wealth and cooking prowess.

  5. The Grubworm

    @Sharmilla – That’s interesting, I had no idea about the dried golden plums being used in biryani. There is still so much to learn about central Asian food. It’s not so long ago that the whole idea of meat and fruit (pork and apple sauce aside – natch) was new to me. Now, however, some of my favourite cuisines have this at the centre of so many dishes. It does make the food feel regal and rich, that’s for sure.

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