A passage to India


We had a lovely Easter, spending it relaxing with family in the sun on our deck that was finally cleared of snow and ice. My brother was the one who wanted to make sure that our celebration was "casual" -- easy food, easy company and lots of time to enjoy each other.

We decided to grill, thinking that lamb, steak tips and asparagus would satisfy everyone’s tastes while still remaining somewhat "traditional." I made a batch of Aunt Ellen’s bean salad, 9-year-old Margot contributed deviled eggs, my mom said she’d bring a green salad and my brother promised some Heady Topper, that Vermont beer phenomenon that has people memorizing distribution schedules and stalking beer trucks.

It was everything we had hoped it would be. The weather was gorgeous, the kids played outside in the yard, and there were lots of bubbles, something that my brother and I equate with the family Easter celebrations of our childhood. The more formal set table and ham weren’t missed, and while Mom’s green salad was green, it was not the lettuces and vegetables that we had expected, but rather a jello salad reminiscent of the ones Grandma Hickin used to make.

Surprisingly we had lots of lamb and steak leftovers -- the kids saw to it that there were no extra asparagus (something that still surprises me!), our 14-year-old made quite a dent in the bean salad, Jon and my brother took care of the Heady Topper, and we all helped with the jello in tribute to Grandma. And for some reason, no one wanted to take their share of the meat leftovers home. Now what?

The steak wasn’t too hard -- I had a package of mushrooms in the refrigerator and sautéed those with some onions and thyme, adding the sliced steak at the last minute to heat through. The lamb took a bit more thinking. I could make a "real" shepherd’s pie, but didn’t really want to bother with the potatoes. Plus, I had let our happy hound Wonka lick the meat platter after the Easter feast and now didn’t have anything to make gravy with. I was hesitant to stir fry it. What else do you do with lamb? Curry!

Jon and I love Indian cuisine and were very pleased when a spur-of-the-moment trip to an Indian restaurant with the girls proved that they felt the same way. However, I had never cooked Indian food before and wasn’t even sure that I had the right ingredients on hand. When I got home I looked up a basic curry recipe and found that, miraculously, I did have everything necessary for this particular dish. And seeing that there were a couple items that are often not on hand this time of the year (a fresh tomato, for example) I figured that curry was our dinner’s destiny.

This is an easy, very flavorful curry, great even after a long day at work and a bit of time spent raking out a garden bed. The original recipe called for cooking lamb that was added raw, but our leftovers heated easily and all the flavors melded beautifully. Other meats, chick peas, potatoes and/or other vegetables could work just as well. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh coriander (cilantro) over plain rice or with naan or chapattis (Indian flatbreads)

Lamb Leftovers Curry

3Ž4 pound cooked lamb, cut into bite-sized chunks

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large tomato, diced

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1Ž2 teaspoon cumin powder

1Ž4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until beginning to lightly brown. Turn off heat and remove from oil with a slotted spoon and puree in a food processor; set aside.

Puree tomato, garlic and ginger in food processor; set aside.

Reheat oil left in pot and add onion puree; sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato puree and powdered spice, mix well and sauté mixture (now called masala, meaning spice mixture) until oil begins to separate.

Add the lamb and 1Ž3 cup water, cover pot, reduce heat and allow to simmer until sauce has thickened, stirring often, about 20 minutes.

It was fun to cook something new and to find such complicated flavors so simple. This will definitely become part of my quick dinner repertoire and I think next time I will make it vegetarian. I certainly never expected our Easter leftovers to be transformed into something so different and delicious.

Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at jpottercooks@gmail.com.


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