Autumn is all about the warming, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that sound so good as the weather cools down, but comfort food doesn't have to mean heavy and cheesy. For the fall pumpkin-carving party I hosted for our latest Gatherings From The Kitchn, I wanted to serve a meal that was fresh and healthy as well as warm and comforting, so I planned a buffet centered around an Indian-themed baked sweet potato bar.
The main topping was rich and flavorful lamb korma, a creamy curry made with lean lamb leg and a little coconut milk that was surprisingly light — yet tasted totally decadent. Even better? This is a recipe that tastes best after a day or two in the fridge, making it a great make-ahead dinner party option.
For this meal, I had my heart set on lamb for the main dish. Something about its deep, complex flavor says "fall comfort food" to me, especially when in a fragrant, long-simmered curry. And lean lamb — from the leg, loin, or rack — is an especially healthy cut of meat, providing about 100 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and only 170 calories per three-ounce serving.
Because it is so lean, cooking it low and slow is key. I found that even at a low simmer on the stove, the lamb became a little tough; instead, I used a Dutch oven to cook the curry at a very low temperature in the oven. It barely even simmered, but after an hour or so, the meat was tender and the sauce had combined into an incredibly rich and flavorful stew.
Browning the lamb is crucial to the flavor of this dish, so even if you make this recipe in your slow cooker (you'll find instructions in the Recipe Notes), you cannot skip that step. I know, I know — no one likes to dirty an extra pot. Well, no one likes a lamb korma that isn't as awesome as it could be.
My last recommendation: make it at least one day ahead, but preferably two! After a day or two in the refrigerator, the lamb is more tender and has soaked up more of the fragrant sauce. That makes it the perfect make-ahead recipe for a dinner party and the best day-after leftovers for lunch.
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
boneless lamb leg, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
yellow onions, finely chopped
cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
salt (or more to taste)
(14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Place the garlic, ginger and water in a blender or small food processor and blend into a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 225°F and adjust racks to the lower third of the oven. Warm the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy, oven-safe pot over high heat. Working in batches, brown the lamb pieces and set them aside in a bowl. Reduce heat to medium-high, add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom, until onions are soft and translucent. Add the spices and salt and toast for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring frequently, until very fragrant. Add the garlic-ginger paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the water in the paste has boiled away.
Add the lamb pieces and their accumulated juices, the coconut milk and the tomatoes to the pan, and stir to combine. Cover, bring to a boil and place in oven. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until lamb is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Can be served immediately, but for best flavor and texture, refrigerate for 1 or 2 days before serving. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave and serve over rice or a roasted sweet potato.
To make this recipe in the slow cooker, follow the directions above. After cooking the garlic-ginger paste, scrape the contents of the pot into the slow cooker, and add the lamb and juices, coconut milk and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
This recipe can be doubled for a larger dinner party without any adjustments.
(Images: Bridget Pizzo)