Monday 16 April 2012

Curried Lamb Ribbetjies with Mint Yoghurt

Slow cooking, and dishes that take a few days to prepare, don’t ever feature on MasterChef because of the obvious time limitations of reality TV. I think this is a pity, because time and patience are often the most delicious aspects of a dish, and this is especially true of meat that is cooked over an open flame.

Curried Lamb Ribs with Mint Yoghurt 

Long marinating and/or many hours of slow cooking can work absolute wonders, especially with tougher cuts of meat. Think, for example, of a whole lamb or pig that is spit-roasted for hours, rotating gently in front of a wood fire until its skin is burnished mahogany and its meat falling from the bone in tender flakes.

A braai is quintessentially South African, so for this week’s Woolies The Pantry recipe I’ve chosen lamb ribbetjies [riblets] because I love them (and their name!), and a Cape-Malay-style marinade based on a traditional curried lamb-sosatie soaking sauce. Drenched in a turmeric-yellow, sharp-sweet marinade, Malay sosaties of this sort have a long and noteworthy history as one of the classics of Cape Malay cooking. The basic recipe has remained largely unchanged over at least two centuries; its pedigree is doubtless older than that, because the dish was bought to the Cape from the East during the earliest days of the slave trade. In my version of the marinade, I’ve used yoghurt in addition to a variety of wonderful spices, because this helps to tenderise the lamb ribbetjies so they are beautifully succulent when they come off the braai.

Click here for my recipe for snack-sized Cape Malay Lamb Sosaties.

My other recipes for Woolworths The Pantry: 
Champ with Chives and Garlic
Gin-Cured Gravadlax with Crisped Capers

Curried Lamb Ribbetjies with Mint Yoghurt

1.2 kg lamb ribbetjies [riblets]
lemon wedges, to serve

For the marinade:
4 T (60 ml) sunflower oil
2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped
4 cardamom pods
1 quill of cinnamon
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 T (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1½ t (7.5 ml) ground cumin
1 t (5 ml) ground coriander
1 t (5 ml) red chilli powder
2 t (10 ml) medium-strength curry powder
1½ t (7.5 ml) turmeric
3 T (45 ml) white wine vinegar
80 ml thick fruity chutney
1 T (15 ml) sugar
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
milled black pepper
80 ml lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
2 cups (500 ml) natural white yoghurt

For the dip:
1 cup (250 ml) thick white Greek yoghurt
80 ml finely chopped fresh mint
80 ml finely chopped fresh coriander
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
the juice of half a lemon
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Fry over a medium-high flame for 5 minutes, or until the onions are golden. Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, without allowing the garlic to burn. Stir in the cumin, coriander, chilli powder, curry powder, turmeric, vinegar and chutney, turn down the heat and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the sugar and water, season with pepper and simmer briskly for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then stir in the lemon juice and yoghurt.  Tip the marinade into a lidded plastic or ceramic bowl, add the ribbetjies, mix well and refrigerate for 48 hours, stirring once or twice.

To make the dip, combine the yoghurt, mint, coriander, garlic and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Season the ribbetjies with salt and braai over medium-hot coals for about 8 minutes on all four sides (half an hour in total), basting frequently with the leftover marinade.  The coals should not be too hot, or the ribs will scorch: by the end of the cooking time, they should be a rich yellow gold, flecked here and there with sticky black bits. Serve hot with the yoghurt dip and lemon wedges.

Serves 4. 

  • For best results, marinate the ribbetjies for two to three days; 24 hours is the absolute minimum.    
  • If you’d like a hotter marinade, add more chilli powder or chopped fresh red chillies to the marinade.
  • Don’t rush the cooking time: lamb ribbetjies can be quite fatty, and long cooking over medium coals will help render the fat.
  • These can be successfully cooked in an oven under a very hot grill, but make sure the ribbetjies are at least 20 cm below the grill, and turn them frequently.
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