01 December 2015

Curried lamb with acorn squash gnocchi

It's over 11ºC outdoors (52ºF) this morning — very mild. The interior of our house used to be at about that temperature on cold winter mornings. But not any more — even though Walt adjusted the thermostat yesterday so that the heat would come on 30 minutes later, here I sit at 6:30 a.m. in balmy 19º warmth (about 67ºF). I'm going to become a softy in my old age.

I'm pretty much finished with the lamb saga. Yesterday was day 4. Oh, and it's December 1 already. Today also makes exactly two weeks since I got back to France, after my short North Carolina visit. Jet lag is just a distant memory, and the cold I brought back is almost done now. On to the curry...

There was still a big piece of good lean lamb meat left on the bone when I started yesterday. It was cooked rare. I just diced it up into, say, 2-centimeter chunks and set it aside until I had made a sauce. Sauté one medium-size onion, finely chopped. Add first a good tablespoon of curry powder (supplemented with whatever spices you like best — fenugreek, cumin, smoked paprika, cloves, garlic etc.) and a big tablespoonful of fresh ginger root, also finely chopped.

When all that is fried and lightly toasted, add a cup (2 little containers) of plain yogurt to the pan. Cook that down, add salt and pepper, and then mix in two or three tablespoons of crème fraîche or heavy cream for richness. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for 10 or 15 minutes, tasting it and adjusting the seasoning as you go. Finally, toss in the diced lamb and stir it in to cook for about 10 minutes. It's ready.

But before cooking the curry, we had made some gnocchi to have with it. Walt brought in all our winter squash crop a couple of days ago, and there were 15 acorn squashes included. Yesterday morning, I cut three of them in half, put them face down on a silicon baking pad on a baking sheet, and cooked them in a medium oven for 45 minutes, until the squash flesh was soft and well cooked.

When they were cool, I scraped the flesh out of two squash halves and pureed it coarsely with a big fork. To that mixture I added some salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, smoked paprika, and hot pepper powder — plus one egg. Then I stated adding flour. For a cup of pureed squash, you need at least two cups of flour, but the exact amounts can vary with the water content of the puree. So you just have to do it by feel.

Make the mixture into a sticky dough, keeping it floured and working it on a stone or board. Shape it into a long log shape and then cut off little pieces about half the size of a little finger. Shape them roughly and put them on a lightly floured plate or pan to rest for a few minutes. Then drop them one by one into boiling water until they start floating to the surface. They're done.

It doesn't matter if the gnocchi are cold when you drop them into the curry sauce with the diced lamb. Don't take the pan off the heat until everything is heated through. Add a little bit of the gnocchi cooking water to the curry sauce if it needs thinning or stretching. No need for rice or potatoes.

The forty-euro, two-kilogram  leg of Limousin lamb is pretty much gone now. Some skin and whatever meat we can scrape off the bone will go into Callie's food this week. Lucky dog. We still have half of the collard green casserole with polenta for today's lunch, so that means the lamb will have fed us for five days.


  1. Ken, this sounds delicious.

    I have a question regarding one of your previous post about mayo. How long will the homemade mayo keep? I read where someone said to check the expiration on the egg carton and add a week, but ....... It will soon be Christmas and I suffered from food poisoning last Christmas (not from my cooking, but at a lovely tea party.) I don't ever want to go through that again.

    1. Because it has the acidity of the vinegar in it, mayonnaise doesn't usually go bad that way or cause food poisoning. I would keep it maybe three days. If the refrigerator is very cold, the oil in the mayonnaise will congeal and that will cause the emulsion to break. The mayonnaise will be edible but not nice to look at -- not appetizing.

      To be safe, it's better to make just the quantity of mayonnaise you plan to eat so that you don't have to keep it for later. It tastes better too. The yolk-only variety is more refined and delicate than the whole-egg version of the sauce. For the yolk-only mayonnaise, I don't use a stick blender or mixer. I add oil slowly to the egg-yolk-mustard-vinegar mixture and stir it with a fork or a small whisk. That's how I first learned to make mayonnaise, back in Normandy in the early 1970s.

  2. You make making gnocchi sound easy, maybe I'll try it some time. The Olive Garden has good chicken gnocchi soup. I love all kinds of curries. Glad you are feeling warm and your cold is almost gone. We are having a mild December so far in Alabama...lol.

  3. This does sound delicious, and a wonderful way to use leftover lamb.
    And the squash gnocchi sounds interesting, too. I make the Hungarian version which is called
    nokedli. I'm sure the name is from the Italian.

  4. I have not yet had breakfast, and my tummy is growling after reading your posts (catching up after a few days)!


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