This dish, known in South Africa as Bunny Chow, was created by Indian immigrants in the city of Durban. It’s made with lamb, not rabbit, so the name is a bit misleading. It was originally a workman’s lunch, a hollowed-out piece of bread filled with a meat curry that you could carry with you to the fields. The curry is dry, so it won’t soak through the crusty bread and make it soggy. I like to pack this on the rare occasions when I can steal away to Central Park for a picnic with my wife.
I have to tell you, the aromas that fill my kitchen when I make this transport me right back to the markets and spice shops of South Africa.
2 pounds boneless lean lamb, preferably from the leg, cubed
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2–3 curry leaves or grated zest of 1/2 lime
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons Durban masala, or 4 teaspoons mild curry powder plus
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped kale
1/4 cup chopped tomato
3 loaves crusty rustic bread, or 6 Kaiser rolls or large brioche buns
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Massage the lamb with the garam masala and leave it on the counter until you need it.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and curry leaves. Cook until the onion is light golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, Durban masala, and turmeric. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes cook down, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the lamb and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan partway, and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender and the potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
4. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. When it’s almost smoking, add the kale and sauté, stirring, just until it starts to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add to the stew, along with the 1/4 cup chopped tomato.
5. Split the bread and pull out some of the soft insides (fold it into the stew, if you’d like). Spoon the curry into the hollowed-out loaves of bread, garnish with cilantro, and serve.
Durban masala is a mix of coriander, cumin, and fenugreek seeds, urad dal (Indian black lentils), peppercorns, chile powder, and paprika. If you’re lucky enough to have a South African market near you, buy some. You can also find recipes online.
Look for fresh curry leaves—which add a warm, slightly bitter, slightly citrusy flavor—in specialty or Indian markets. They freeze beautifully.
Excerpted from Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home © 2014 by Marcus Samuelsson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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