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Saag Gosht
For 8 persons

3 cups fresh cooked spinach
6 tablespoons light vegetable oil
3 pounds lean boneless lamb, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
3 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium-sized ripe tomato, finely chopped, or 1/4 cup chopped canned tomatoes
3 green chiles, seeded and minced, or 1 teaspoon red pepper
3 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches long, broken into small pieces
6 black (or 12 green) cardamom pods
9 whole cloves
3 bay leaves, crushed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 teaspoons garam masala, or ground roasted cumin seeds
2-4 tablespoons light vegetable oil (additional, if needed)

Finely puree the cooked spinach, using a food processor or electric
blender, or mince it with a knife on a chopping board. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over high heat
until very hot. Pat the meat dry on paper towels (or it will not
brown) and add to the pan. Brown the meat, turning and tossing the
pieces, until nicely seared on all sides. This is best done in
batches so that the frying pan is not overcrowded. As each batch
is browned, transfer to a heavy-bottomed casserole.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the frying pan and add
chopped onions. Reduce heat to medium-high, and fry them until they
turn light caramel brown (about 25 minutes). (Do this carefully
and patiently to avoid burning any of the onions. If in doubt,
reduce the heat and take longer.) Add garlic and ginger and fry
for an additional 2 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, and turmeric,
and stir rapidly for 15 seconds. Add tomatoes and chiles, and
continue frying until the tomato is cooked and the entire mixture
is turned into a thick, pulpy paste (about 3 minutes). Add yogurt
or sour cream, and immediately turn off the heat. When slightly
cool, puree in an electric blender or food processor, and add to
the meat in the casserole.

Place a double layer of cheesecloth, about 6 inches square, on the
work surface. Put cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves in
the center, bring up the four corners of the cheesecloth to wrap
the spices, and tie them to form a bag. Crush the bag slightly with
a wooden mallet or any heavy tool to break up the spices. Add the
spice bag to the casserole.

Add 4 cups of boiling water along with the salt, and stir to
distribute the meat into the sauce. Place a piece of aluminum foil
on top of the casserole, and cover tightly with the lid. Bring the
contents to a boil on top of the stove.

Place the casserole in the middle level of the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Alternatively, it may be cooked on top of the stove over low heat
for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven (or turn off the stove) and take
off the lid. Remove the spice bag, squeeze hard to extract as much
juice as possible, and discard the bag. Add the cooked spinach and
garam masala and blend well, being careful not to break the fragile
meat pieces. Cover the pot, return it to the oven or stove, and
cook for 5 minutes more. Turn off the oven, and let the pot remain
undisturbed for an additional 10 minutes. Check for salt, and if
the sauce lacks adequate glaze, stir in a few tablespoons of oil.

Notes

This dish, just like any other braised dish, tastes better with
keeping. It is particularly good if made a few hours in advance,
and allowed to rest at room temperature before being reheated and
served.

This dish keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and also
freezes well. Defrost thoroughly before reheating. To reheat, gently
simmer over low heat until warmed through. Before serving, taste
for salt, and if necessary, fold in a little garam masala.

Cooked Spinach

To make 3 cups of cooked spinach, you need 3 pounds of fresh spinach
and 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt.

Snip the stems from the tender leaves of the spinach; for more
mature leaves, fold the leaves vertically along the stem, and with
one hand, pull away the stem, including that portion attached to
the leaf's underside. Discard all wilting, rotting, or yellow
leaves.

Wash the spinach thoroughly by swishing it around in several changes
of cold water until all sand is washed away.

Bring about 8 quarts of water (with the salt) to a boil in a deep
pot. Drop the spinach leaves in the rapidly boiling water. When
the water comes to a boil again, reduce the heat to medium and let
the spinach boil, uncovered for 5 minutes.

Note: you can substitute 3 10-ounce packages of frozen leaf spinach
for the above; defrost thoroughly, separate the leaves, cut off
and discard the stems, then cook for only 3 minutes in boiling
water as above.

Pour the entire contents of the pot immediately into a colander or
a sieve held firmly over the kitchen sink. Let cold water run
through for a minute to refresh the spinach -- this will preserve
its bright green color and also prevent any further cooking. Do
not overcook!

Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible by pressing
it with the back of a spoon, or use your hand.

Place the spinach on a chopping board, and chop it as coarse or as
fine as called for in a recipe.

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Wonderful, November 5, 2006 - 06:10 PM
Reviewer: Anonymous from Montreal, Canada
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