Vij’s at home: Lamb popsicles, cauliflower steak

If you’ve never had the opportunity to eat Indian food at Vij’s Restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, add it to your list. Here, Meeru Dhalwala, co-author with Vikram Vij of the book “Vij’s at Home: Relax Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking,” shares recipes for lamb popsicles and cauliflower steak.

Spice-encrusted lamb popsicles
Servings:

Serves 6

Ingredients

    • 3 1/2 to 4 pounds rack of lamb, cut into 30 chops
    • 1/2 cup cooking oil
    • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
    • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (6 medium cloves)
    • 1/2 to 1 whole lemon, cut in wedges (optional)

Preparation

Baking Directions:

About this dish:Meeru Dhalwala came up with this recipe for Mike Bernardo, Vij’s general manager, to serve at one of his parties. The theme for the evening was red meat and alcohol (no juice or soda on offer), and guests were instructed to "hydrate before you come." We consider these popsicles to be a glorified, high-end variation on chicken wings. We have our butcher cut each "popsicle" from the rack of lamb so that guests have individual chops to pick up and eat with their hands. That way we can serve this dish as an hors d'oeuvre or part of a larger meal. Once the lamb has marinated, this recipe is fast and easy and tastes great, as long as you don't burn the chops in the oven or marinate the lamb for more than a day (the spices get too intense). Use the recommended amount of oil to cook the spices in the oven, as any less changes the flavor. Although you can serve these popsicles on their own, they are delicious with sour cream Indian dressing or chutneys as a dip. We have given a baking time for popsicles with a slightly pink center; if you prefer them cooked more, adjust the baking time accordingly.To prepare:In a large bowl, combine lamb with oil, cumin, salt, cayenne, coriander, paprika, turmeric and garlic. Toss lightly to coat the lamb, then cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to allow lamb to marinate. Move your oven rack to its highest position, and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.On a large baking sheet, arrange chops — as many as will fit comfortably without overlapping (at home we usually cook 12 to 18 at a time) — and bake for 2 minutes. Remove from the oven (closing the oven door so that the heat doesn't escape), set on a heatproof surface and, using tongs, turn each chop over. Bake for 2 minutes more, then remove from the oven. Using a sharp knife, cut into a popsicle; it should be pink in the center. (If the popsicles are not quite cooked, bake each side for 30 seconds to 1 minute more.) Transfer to a serving platter and squeeze some lemon juice over the cooked popsicles.Serve with:Apple chutney Coconut curryCoconut vegetable curry

Spicy cauliflower steak
Servings:

Serves 6 to 8; takes about 30 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients

    • 1 head cauliflower, outside stalks cut off
    • 1/2 cup cooking oil
    • 1 1/2 cups puréed or crushed canned tomatoes
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 10 cloves (optional)
    • 3-inch cinnamon stick (optional)

Preparation

Baking Directions:

About this dish:Meeru Dhalwala loves to tease Vikram Vij about two things: how much he loves meat and, after his years of studying in Europe, how she could never be as mannered and proper at a dining table as he is. One evening, when she was in charge of the meal, she made this vegetarian steak as a replacement for his regular meat steak. She wanted to feed him vegetables but (half-jokingly) give him the pleasure of using a fork and steak knife in a proper dining-table setting.Like eggplant, cauliflower is a staple vegetable throughout India. Its taste and texture are a perfect match for Indian spices. You will rarely meet an Indian who doesn't enjoy cauliflower, and we grew up eating it once a week. You could just as easily cut up the cauliflower into smaller florets in this recipe, but we enjoy the "steak" cut and also find it's easier to reheat this thicker cut the next day. We don't like mushy cauliflower. Although there’s no sauce here, it's still great with rice. And if you want some meat on the side, the ground lamb, beef and lentil kebobs are perfect. Instructions:Cut cauliflower, as you would a pie, into 6 pieces if it's a smaller head and 8 pieces if it's a larger one. Wash and carefully place large cauliflower pieces in a colander to drain.Combine oil and tomatoes in a large wide pot on medium-high heat. (Since the pot is large, you may need to turn it on to high if your stove burner is small.) Add ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cloves and cinnamon, stir well and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until oil glistens from tomatoes.Reduce the heat to low while you mix in cauliflower. Carefully place each large piece of cauliflower into the pot and gently stir so that the tomato masala covers all the pieces. If necessary, use a large spoon to ladle tomato masala into the nooks and crannies of the cauliflower pieces.Increase the heat to medium, cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. When you stir, if you notice that the cauliflower isn't cooking, increase the heat. If it's sticking to the bottom of the pot, decrease the heat. Pierce one of the larger pieces with a knife to see if it is soft (not mushy). If necessary, cook cauliflower, covered, for another 1 to 2 minutes. (If florets have broken apart because they overcooked, don't worry; this dish is still delicious.)Serve with:Spicy peas and mashed potato toasted sandwichesMung beans in coconut curry or punjabi lentil curryOven-baked chicken and potatoes in yogurt and date curry

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