This dish is a flavor fest. First you make the meatballs and brown them. They contain garam masala – a wonderfully complex spice mix, popular in Indian cooking. Then you sauté the vegetables, including spicy jalapeños, lots of fresh garlic, and ginger. The final step is to braise the meat and the veggies together with coconut milk, in the oven, until they infuse each other with even more flavor. Then comes a final tasty layer – the garnish – a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
I have been doing some cookbook hunting lately. We have a bookstore in our town of Newton, Massachusetts, called “The New England Mobile Book Fair.” I sometimes spend hours browsing there. It’s a huge old warehouse with creaky floors, uneven lighting, signs that are hand-written and taped to the walls. It’s packed to the rafters with books – most discounted. Until very recently, the books were organized by publisher and it was virtually impossible to find what you were looking for without asking for help. But it was still fun to try. They recently reorganized the books by category, which makes it even better. In the back right corner of the store there are miles and miles of cookbooks, old and new. There are always treasures to be found. I found one the other day called “Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine,” by Daniel Boulud. Boulud is an award-winning French chef and restauranteur. This book, he tells us, was inspired by the chefs and cooks from around the world that have worked in his restaurant kitchens over the years and shared their expertise. The recipe I just had to try immediately was the Indian-style ratatouille with lamb meatballs.
This recipe has enough vegetables to make you feel healthy…..
…and enough meat to make you feel indulgent.
Garam masala is a fragrant, warming spice mix (as opposed to a hot spice mix) used in many Indian recipes. Every chef has his or her own version, but the essential ingredients are cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Seeds are sometimes toasted first. Everything is ground to a fine powder, using a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Making fresh-ground garam masala will enhance the flavors in any recipe, but for those who are in a hurry, it is easy, these days, to find good garam masala in the spice section of most grocery stores or on line. If you have 15 minutes, try this recipe for garam masala, from celebrated Indian chef/cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey.
Serve with crusty bread or steamed basmati rice. Enjoy!
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from 2 slices good-quality white bread pulsed in a food-processor)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each), ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (about 5 large cloves)
- 3 bell peppers (any mix of red, yellow or green), seeded, deveined, and diced
- 1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp saffron threads
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- several grinds of fresh ground black pepper
- ½ cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk (shake can before opening)
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- lemon juice (1 lemon)
- lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- fresh chopped cilantro, to taste
- Preheat oven to 300ºF.
- Meatballs Put lamb and bread crumbs into a medium bowl. Whisk egg with 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon garam masala, and 1 teaspoon salt, and add to bowl. Mix everything together until just combined. Roll into 1½ inch balls. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the meatballs (In two batches to avoid over-crowding) on all sides, 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Cover with foil to keep warm while you cook the vegetables.
- Ratatouille Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a large deep covered pot, such as a dutch oven. Add eggplant cubes and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes (regulate heat to avoid burning) Add zucchini and cook for an additional 5 minutes, continuing to stir frequently. The vegetables will start to soften. Add the garlic, bell peppers, scallions, jalapeños, ginger, turmeric, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, continuing to stir frequently, until vegetables soften a bit. Add the coconut milk plus ½ cup water. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the meatballs and stir everything gently to combine. Cover pot and braise in the oven for 35 minutes.
- Just before serving, stir through a teaspoon of garam masala. Then sprinkle with lemon juice, lemon zest and cilantro. Enjoy!