Lamb and Tomato Curry

Adjust the quantity of cayenne in this recipe according to how much "heat" you prefer. As with most spicy casseroles, the flavours of this curry will improve on standing, but add the fresh coriander just before serving. If cumin seeds are unavailable, substitute an additional 1 tsp. (5 mL) ground cumin.  Serves 4 to 6.

1/4 cup canola oil (50 mL)
2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup butter (50 mL)
2 tbsp cumin seeds (25 mL)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp each ground coriander and cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne
10 whole cloves
3-inch cinnamon stick
1 cup plain yogurt (250 mL)
6 medium tomatoes, peeled and each cut into 6 pieces (about 3 lbs/1.5 kg) or 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) canned tomatoes with their juice
1 cup water (250 mL)
1 tsp salt (5 mL)
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

Heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook lamb, in batches, for 3 to 5 minutes, until browned on all sides. With a slotted spoon, remove lamb to a plate as each batch browns, and add more oil to the saucepan as necessary.

Wipe out the saucepan with paper towels. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in the same saucepan over low heat. Add cumin seeds and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until seeds start to sizzle (omit this step if substituting ground cumin). Add garlic and ginger, then cook, stirring for 1 minute, until garlic is softened. Add onions, increase heat to medium-low, then cook, stirring for 7 to 10 minutes until onions are golden brown. Add remaining butter, then stir in ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, cayenne, cloves and cinnamon. Increase the heat to medium, then cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until butter starts to separate from the spice mixture. If spices start to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add more butter or lower the heat slightly. Stir in yogurt, then cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until butter starts to separate again. Stir in tomatoes, water and salt, adding a little more water if the fresh tomatoes are not very juicy (at this stage the curry should be the consistency of thick soup).

Return lamb to the saucepan, then bring curry to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, then simmer, covered, for about 1 hour. Remove lid and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, until juices have thickened slightly and lamb is tender. Just before serving, adjust seasoning to taste and stir in fresh coriander.

Source of recipe: Vij's Restaurant, Vancouver, B.C.