Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Jamaican lamb curry

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s there was a big influx of migrants from the British Commonwealth to the UK who were a vital part of rebuilding the country following WWII. A large contingent came from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica. In the late 60s, eminent scholar, Conservative politician, and, as it subsequently became apparent, massive racist cockwomble, Enoch Powell, foretold there would be rivers of blood as a result of this influx. Anyone who bought a pair of gum boots to spare their socks from getting stained in the gore must look pretty fucking stupid now as this hasn't happened.

It's nothing new, of course. There were doubtless a few resident Neanderthals probably grunting the same about the Cro-Magnons (ugg ug-uggg ug'g ugg or "fucking neo-hominids. They come over here with their complex language abilities and their way of crafting superior arrowheads and hand-axes from flint") when they arrived; and no doubt there would have been a subsequently vocal minority of the residents who said similar things about the Celts, the Romans, the Vikings, the Jutes, the Saxons, the Normans, the Hugenots, the Jews, the Indians, the Pakistanis, as there is saying the same thing about the Poles and the Syrians now. The worst of the bunch were the fucking Angles. Those bastards came over to Albion, next thing you know we have to change the name of our entire fucking country to Angle-land, or England, to suit them. It's just Germanic feudal correctness gone mad.

Anyway, despite the naysayers, the little Englanders, and the out and out fucking racists, we have a fucking proud history of welcoming immigrants, and them becoming part of the fabric of British life with their culture enriching ours. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the British national dish these days is now accepted to be chicken tikka masala, and Melas and Eid have become massive community events for everyone living in towns with a big Asian population.

This is equally true of the Caribbean immigrants from the late 20th century. One of the most vibrant events in the national calendar is the Notting Hill Carnival, arguably the largest street festival in the world, is a huge celebration of West Indian culture. The musical landscape was changed drastically by reggae and ska in the 70s and 80s; and restaurants specialising in Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines are often a gem of the culinary life of any town.

The most well known dishes of Jamaican cuisine include jerk chicken, rice & peas and goat curry. Being a bit of an aficionado of curries from across the globe, I had to try this, but goat tends to be a bit in short supply in these parts so substituted lamb.

Preparation: 10 minutes (plus marination)
Cooking: 3 hours

500g diced lamb
2tbsp Jamaican curry powder (see notes)
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 thumbs-worth of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
200ml coconut milk
200ml water
1 chicken stock cube
1tbsp tomato pure
2 regular red chillies, finely chopped (see notes)
2 regular green chillies, finely chopped (see notes)
2tsp Encona chilli sauce (see notes)
Half a butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed

Trim off any excess fat from the lamb and put it in a bowl with 1 tbsp of the curry powder and shake the bowl to cover the meat

Leave to marinate for at least an hour, overnight if possible.

In a flame-proof casserole dish, heat the oil on the hob and brown the lamb for 5-10 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon

Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the dish and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the curry powder

Return the lamb and add the rest of the ingredients.

Stir well, cover and place in an oven at 150°C for three hours.

Check the stew every hour or so and add more water if it's getting dry.

 How it is cooking

Makes enough for two people. Serve it with rice and peas (recipe to follow)

With rice and peas

There are loads of commercially available available blends of Jamaican curry powder. Now, some cookery columns, celebrity chefs etc would insist you must make your own. As a rule I'd say fuck that for a game of soldiers. Why reinvent the wheel? However, I actually did make my own, but mainly because I couldn't find any in my local supermarket. This is how I made it:
  • 2½ tbsp ground tumeric
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole fenugreek
  • ½ tbsp star anise
  • ½ tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 large stick of cinnamon (10 cm)
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp whole black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
Put the spices in a dry frying pan and heat for a couple of minutes on the hob to toast. Let them cool then grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container

As mentioned above, this is based on a goat curry. Fortunately it works very well with the lamb I used which is readily available. Goat would probably need more cooking, but who knows? Not me, I've never fucking cooked it.

I'd intended to use sweet potato in this recipe but couldn't find any so substituted squash. Squash or pumpkin is great in any curry, but this would also work with regular potato.

Coconut milk in tins is great for this

I used the chillies I could find in my local supermarket, which were some not-too-hot non-descript variety. However, the chillies used in this ought to be scotch bonnet chillies which are hotter than Satan's urinary tract when he was having a severe case of urethritis during Hell's great cranberry shortage of 1986. As well as being stupid hot they also have a fantastic fruity taste that is as much a part of Jamaican cuisine as the other spices. Again, I couldn't find any scotch bonnets locally so used the bog standard chillies in the ingredients. On the other hand, Encona Hot Pepper Sauce is made from Scotch Bonnet chillies, hence why I add some to this dish.

Scotch bonnet chillies and Encona Hot Pepper Sauce which is made from them(You can get an extra hot version of the sauce)
(Chillies pic from http://huntergathercook.typepad.com/huntergathering_wild_fres/2011/01/homemade-scotch-bonnet-hot-sauce-thrifty-central-heating.html Sauce picture from Tescos website)

Sweary jocularity aside, I'm conscious of the fact that the as well as enriching British culture, the influx of immigrants from former British colonies in the West Indies betrays a dark history of the slave trade that saw huge numbers of African natives captured and shipped across the Atlantic to provide a cheap workforce for plantations in these selfsame former colonies.

Many immigrants live in some of the most deprived parts of the country complete with the social problems that afflict such areas, as well as often being vibrant centres for diverse cultures. The vibrancy then leads to more affluent people moving to the area, gentrification and next thing you know, the area is no longer vibrant and is the setting to some Richard Curtis (yes, him) bland, middle-class Rom-com as was the case for Notting Hill.

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