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Lamb Chili with Chickpeas and Raita

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Lamb Chili with Chickpeas and Raita

Lamb Chili with Chickpeas and Raita
Quentin Bacon
Provided by:
total prep
Recipe courtesy of American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini/Ecco, 2011.

A while back, I lived in the Manhattan neighborhood known as Curry Hill. It’s just what the name says: full of Indian restaurants and grocery stores. Our place was right next door to a pretty great Indian restaurant, so whenever we opened our windows, the apartment would be filled with the smells of ghee, curry spices, and fried pappadams. (What we got from the apartment on the other side was not so good: no aromas, just really bad electric guitar.) You know how just about every block in New York has some kind of corner deli? Well, ours was Kalustyan's, the city's best and craziest spice shop, selling everything from guajillo chiles to fresh curry leaves. Our kitchen was full of every kind of Indian spice, dahl, and condiment you can think of. Sometimes I cooked actual Indian food -- but usually I just used Indian spices in whatever I happened to be making.

This dish is that kind of cooking. It's definitely not traditional Indian. We're talking America-meets-India fusion: a good ol' American chili, Indian-style. The chili's got a tiny bit of heat, but what we're really all about here is the layering of the Indian flavors. It's pretty great on its own, but I think the cucumber raita is key -- leaving it out is like serving chile con carne without the sour cream or grated cheddar. Make the raita first, so it has time to chill down in the fridge; then serve the chili hot and the raita cool, with hot basmati rice and cold beer.



  • TO MAKE THE RAITA: Use a vegetable peeler to peel the cucumber. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and then cut each piece in half widthwise. Use a small spoon to scrape out the seeds.
  • Using a box grater or a large flat grater, grate the cucumber into a bowl. Tip the bowl over the sink, holding the cucumber in with your hand or with a plate, and drain out the excess cucumber water.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into the cucumber, using your hand as a filter to catch any seeds. Add the yogurt and mix everything together.
  • Add the mint, salt, cumin, and cayenne, and mix gently. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge. The raita should be served cold.
  • TO MAKE THE CHILI: Heat the corn oil in a large saucepot over medium- high heat. Use your hands to break the ground lamb into small pieces; then add the meat to the pot. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes; use a wooden spoon to keep breaking the meat up, chopping it and stirring it constantly so that it browns evenly without clumping up.
  • Turn the heat down to medium. Add the red onion, gin- ger, garlic, garam masala, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix everything together so the meat is well coated in the spices and the oil, and then toast the mixture for a minute or so, until the spices release their flavor and aroma.
  • Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, broth, and bell pepper. Mix everything together, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the chili up to a simmer. Then let it cook, uncovered, at a low bubble, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick.
  • When the chili has been cooking for an hour and a half, stir in the chickpeas, and cook for another hour, until the chili has thickened and the flavors are rich and well combined.
  • TO FINISH THE DISH: Ladle the chili into individual bowls, and add a spoonful of the cold raita and a sprinkling of the fresh cilantro to each one. Serve the chili up right away, with basmati rice and cold beer.