Indulge the Irish love of spice with an easy lamb rendang, and an aubergine and chickpea smash
Lamb rendang. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Aubergine and chickpea smash. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
For a nation that just 25 years ago would have collectively turned our noses up at anything that even hinted at spice, today we Irish love our curries. Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Nepali. Eat out or take away, take your pick, it doesn’t really matter; we love them all and eat them in abundance.
But because the ingredients list for most curries can be pretty long, cooking one from scratch is not something many of us choose to do on a regular basis. It can seem, well, a bit of a chore in comparison to picking up the phone and ordering one.
Off-the-shelf curry pastes certainly do the trick and Green Saffron’s range of spice mixes are great store-cupboard stand-bys.
I find that with curries, the more you put in, in terms of time, and using good quality dried spices that are fresh, the better they are. Care and attention spring to mind.
But this lamb rendang dish genuinely started off as an experiment. I set out to take every possible shortcut and see if I could get a decent result. It worked so well that I had to make it three more times to ensure it wasn’t some sort of culinary fluke.
It has the virtue of tasting like you’ve taken great care, but in reality everything is strewn on top of the lamb and onion and the whole thing is left to stew. You don’t even need to brown the meat. It couldn’t be simpler. And it tastes sensational, even better if left till the next day. It is lovely with plain basmati rice, perhaps sprinkled with some finely shredded, crisp fried onions and chopped coriander.
The other dish, hummus and aubergine “smash”, is similarly easy to make. It’s one of those vegetarian dishes that is made more robust and meaty thanks to aubergine, a vegetable that is truly transformed by heat and time, from something very bland into rich flesh bursting with complex, almost smoky flavour. That flavour really comes through in this dish, which is made by mixing whole and smashed chickpeas with aubergines that have been roasted with oil, herbs, spices and garlic and then whizzed in a blender with the chickpeas. Very Middle Eastern, very simple, super tasty.
As it happens, thanks to the happy synergy of lamb, chickpeas and aubergine, this dish is lovely with the lamb rendang, though it would also be lovely with grilled lamb chops or perhaps in a wrap with flaked roast shoulder of lamb and minted yoghurt.
The hummus and aubergine smash is a wonderful veggie supper for two (and can be upsized for bigger numbers), but the rendang is worth making in one big batch to do you for a few days or even to freeze.