Make it Naked

Lamb Curry

It happened again. You know, where I risk getting escorted out of the grocery store. It involved a hot food bar, a cell phone camera and a “mystery chef.” It all started when I went into Whole Foods one day to grab a quick, leafy green salad for lunch and came out with lamb curry. The best lamb curry I’ve had. I let a day pass but still had curry on the brain. So, I went back, focused and with one goal. I was going to leave with every ingredient I needed to make that lamb curry, even if it meant embarrassing myself. It would be ok. I was wearing a hat. Undercover and on a mission. If you’ve ever been to Whole Foods you know that each item on the food bar is labeled and listed with all the ingredients, more than likely for allergy and nutrition purposes and not for photographing.

I’m not ashamed.

Did I really just photograph the ingredient list on a salad bar at a grocery store? Yeah, I did. I read through it to see what I needed to buy. Most food labels are in order with the ingredients used in the greatest quantity listed first. But I noticed cayenne pepper listed as the third ingredient in my zoomed-in, possibly illegal, snap shot. I’m no professional, but I was certain there was not more cayenne pepper than tomatoes in the dish.

I asked the friendly lady behind the counter if the ingredients were in order – already knowing the answer, but trying to start conversation, and hoping she’d slip me the recipe. She said “Yes. They are.” Hmmm…not the answer I was expecting. She must have seen the doubt in my eyes, because she followed up by offering to go in the back and bring out the chef to confirm. She returned chef-less. “The chef is busy. But he said they are NOT in order.” “OH. Ok. Thanks. I have another question. What cut of lamb do you use in the lamb curry? Is it shoulder?” She put her finger up in the air telling me to hold on a second. She returned. “The chef

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said. He uses some shoulder.” Thanks mystery chef. Some shoulder? What does that mean? I could have followed up with countless questions, but I

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could tell she was not as interested (obsessed) with this lamb curry as I was. I said “thank you,” quickly paid for everything I needed and ran out of the store making eye contact with no one for fear they’d confiscate my phone.

I doubt that Whole Foods is really concerned that I snapped covert photographs of ingredients, but it felt wrong. It felt wrong…but it tasted SO right. This lamb curry is everything I was hoping for. It is saucy and spicy, full of flavor. The meat breaks down and is tender after sitting for hours in the crock-pot. Yeah, crock-pot people. Make it your new best friend. I wanted to hug mine once I served this curry. The dish is incredibly comforting and can be waiting for you when you get home from work.

I tried to take the mystery out of it for you, but you can really play with the ingredients here. I’ve made this three times now, each one a little different. Add a bell pepper, use chicken instead of lamb. Add more cayenne, just not more than the tomatoes.

  Lamb Curry (serves about 6) Ingredients: 2 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch pieces 1-2 tablespoons olive oil 3 large garlic cloves, chopped 28oz can crushed tomatoes 1 onion, sliced 2 bay leaves ¼ cup cilantro, chopped, plus more for finishing 1½ tablespoons fresh ginger, grated 1½ teaspoons garam masala 1 teaspoon salt 1 heaping teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon fennel seeds ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Directions:

  1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Add the oil and about 1 clove of the chopped garlic to a frying pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot (a drop of water should sizzle when it hits the oil), brown the lamb pieces on all sides.
  2. Once the meat has browned, remove from heat. Add the meat, any juices and garlic from the pan (Be sure the garlic is not burned. If it is, don’t add it and chop a new clove to add).
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the crock-pot and stir. Set the crock-pot for 4-6 hours and let it do its magic. Stir occasionally. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, cayenne, cilantro, etc. Remove the bay leaves. Serve hot over rice.


  1. I think this is one of those dishes that gets better as it sits. It’s wonderful the next day and also freezes well.
  2. The longer in the crock-pot the more tender the meat. The time I cooked it for 6 hours was much more tender than the time I cooked it for 4.
  3. Did you know you can freeze fresh ginger for up to 6 months? I grated frozen chunks and they were still very flavorful. I learned this at Trader Joe’s when I was forced to buy a massive bulk package of fresh ginger.

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Posted on March 4, 2011

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