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Author Notes: This pair of recipes came about when I bought some mutton shanks and a huge jar of tomato paste at my local Armenian market. On the morning of an especially busy day, I tossed them into the crock pot with some off-season anemic tomatoes, salt, pepper, and a halved onion. When the sauce had simmered all day, I shredded the mutton, added it back into the sauce, and served it with pasta: a rich, flavorful ragu. I froze the leftover sauce for last-minute dinners. It was so good I made it again soon afterward, with garlic cloves.
A couple of weeks later, I was back at the grocery store at dinnertime with my toddlers, looking over the bread. Would you believe our market has a pita bread aisle? It's true! There are all different sizes and brands of pita, as well as lavash and other flatbreads with delicious toppings like sesame seeds and no English label. This particular evening, almost all of the pita was sold- the shelves were nearly bare. There were some of the very dry, floury pitas that I don't prefer, and a package of puffier flatbreads. I lifted them, squeezed them, and looked at the label: naan. I was wrestling two squirming little boys, but I instantly imagined the comfort of dipping warm, soft naan in mild, creamy curry. An "AHA!" moment seized me as I remembered the mutton sauce in my fridge and the ginger root in my produce hammock. Sold! At home, I heated some of the sauce in a pan with minced ginger and curry powder. When it was hot, I added cream. With my last remaining strength, I warmed naan in a buttered cast-iron skillet, spooned the curry into bowls, and hoisted the boys into their seats. The curry was hot, rich, and intensely "red" tasting, the naan as soft and warm as could be. Even with my husband away and two little mouths to feed and wipe, I could feel my shoulders relax. It was on the table in 5 minutes, and my only regret was that not buying more mutton shanks at two dollars a pound.
Makes a medium pot of sauce- at least two dinners' worth for a small family.
- 2 mutton shanks, or similar meat.
- 6 tomatoes, or several more, chopped in large pieces- pallid perfectly fine.
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 1 pinch salt
- several grinds of the peppermill
- 1 onion, halved or chopped in large pieces
- 6 cloves garlic, left whole
- 2 cups mutton sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon curry powder, your favorite brand
- 1/4 cup cream
- Place the mutton shanks in your slow cooker. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic.
- Let cook, on "low", all day while you live your life.
- When mutton is tender, remove shanks, shred meat, and add back to sauce. Discard bones.
- Serve with pasta or over polenta, reserving the amount you plan to use in the curry.
- For the curry, heat the remaining sauce in a saucepan with the minced ginger and the curry powder. When it is hot, add the cream. Taste, correct seasonings, and serve with rice or warm naan.
- A garnish of chopped cilantro leaves, and a bright salad or condiment would be nice, but is not necessary. The main point for me was to get it on the table before I dropped dead.