Friday, July 8, 2011

Minced Lamb with Mint Stuffed Zucchini and Rice

I would rank this both as one of the most interesting and the most satisfying meals we have cooked recently.  I have never made stuffed zucchini (or any sort of stuffed vegetable with the exception of these Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms we made last month).  And I have never tried either of these recipes from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.  Madhur Jaffrey suggested stuffing her Minced Lamb with Mint into tomatoes before roasting the tomatoes in the oven, but I have a longstanding prejudice against stuffed tomatoes.  I really don't enjoy them.  Alex and I both really enjoy zucchini and Google turned up all sorts of stuffed zucchini recipes when I searched.  Plus stuffed tomatoes are all gross and mushy.  So I decided that stuffed zucchini sounded like a better option.  And I decided that we should make some fancy rice rather than plain basmati rice.  I really prefer plain basmati rice, but I know that Alex really enjoys spiced rice so every once in awhile a try to throw him a bone.  And this rice was really nice.  The sweetness and floral quality of the spices was a nice counterpoint to the spicy lamb mixture.  As for the lamb, it was just delicious.  It had some serious heat, but the spice wasn't  overpowering.  You could still taste the aromatics and the spices in every bite.  The zucchini really soaked up some of those intense flavors, but still provided a nice textural counterpoint to the ground lamb mixture.  It was just a really really nice dish.  Both the lamb and the rice take some time and effort, but they are more than worth it.  The best endorsement that I can give for this meal?  I would make it again and I wouldn't change a single thing.  It really was that good.

Recipes after the jump!

Minced Lamb with Mint Stuffed Zucchini
Adapted from Indian Cooking
By Madhur Jaffrey

1 medium yellow onion, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 large zucchini (about 12-inches long), cut in half lengthwise
1 tsp vegetable oil

Chop half of the onions finely and set aside.  Chop the other half roughly and put it in a mini food processor, along with garlic, ginger, and water.  Pulse to form a smooth paste.  Empty into a small bowl.  Add cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne.

Add the 2 tbsp oil in a 10-inch saute pan and place over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the cardamom pods and cloves.  Two seconds later, add finely chopped onions.  Stir and fry until they turn fairly brown.  Lower the heat to medium and add the spice mixture.  Stir and fry for 3-4 minutes.  If spice mixture sticks to the pan, add 1 tbsp of water and keep frying.

Add ground lamb.  Break up the lumps and cook, stirring until the meat is browned.  Add salt and mix.  Cover, reduce heat to very low, and let the meat cook in its own juices for 25 minutes.  Remove the cover and spoon off any accumulated fat.  Add chopped mint, garam masala, and lemon juice.  Stir to mix.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered on very low heat for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and remove cardamom and cloves.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Scoop out the insides of the zucchini with a spoon, leaving about a 1/4-inch shell.  Do not puncture the skin of the zucchini.  Place zucchini cut side up in a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle zucchini with 1 tsp vegetable oil and season with s&p.  Stuff zucchini loosely with the lamb mixture.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until zucchini begins to soften and the filling is lightly browned on top.

Serve with rice.

Aromatic Yellow Rice
Indian Cooking
By Madhur Jaffrey

2 cups basmati rice
5 cups, plus 2 2/3 cup water
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
3-4 cloves
1-inch cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pats

Put rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water.  Drain.  Pour 5 cups of water over the rice and let sock for 30 minutes.  Drain the rice in a strainer.

Combine the drained rice, 2 2/3 cup water, salt, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves in a heavy pot and bring to a boil.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn heat to very very low and cook for 25 minutes.  Let the pot rest, covered and undisturbed, for 10 minutes.

Add the small pats of butter to the rice and mix them in very gently using a fork.

Remove whole spices before serving.

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