Lamb with Coconut Sauce

My desire to travel first came from books. I was always a reader and explored the world through print. During my teens, I traveled a little bit, but I made up for the gap between my travel desires and realities of time and space by cooking dishes from different cuisines: Nepalese curries, popular Indian dishes, authentic Mexican stews, colorful Thai food, the alien textures of Japanese food, and so forth. Food became a way to travel vicariously and explore different cultures of the palate.

So I was absolutely delighted to discover the wonderful work of Melissa Joulwan, who created the authoritative book Well Fed and runs the site The Clothes Make the Girl. It was so nice to find that the traditional foods of other cultures were not in fact lost to me but available in a new, improved primal form. I think I made Melissa’s Rogan Josh recipe five or six times in two weeks. I couldn’t get enough!

Now I’m grudgingly on the auto-immune paleo diet protocol, since I do, in fact, have an auto-immune disease, as much as I sometimes try to ignore that. So some exotic dishes and spices are off-limits for the time being. My brain resisted switching over to this new diet for a while, and I avoided it because it was causing me lots of anxiety, but my body sent a few glaring signals this month that I can’t ignore. After a terrible flare of PCOS symptoms, a secondary condition caused by my auto-immune Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I’ve come to peace with the elimination of nightshades, nuts, cocoa, eggs, seeds, and certain spices for the time being. But as I heal, I refuse to feel deprived. I refuse to feel restricted. I’ll continue to enjoy food by cooking at home and relishing what I can eat. It’s not forever, and even if it is, I’ll take it one day at a time and not worry about the rest. 90% of what we worry about never comes true.

So, like a true traveler (or MacGuyver fanatic), I’ll make use of what I have on hand and enjoy the adventure. Thanks to the Paleo Mom’s excellent guide to what spices are allowed or better off avoiding, I’m happy to report that I can still use garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon (thanks for the last tip Melissa). You can read the whole list here, but I find it helps to be grateful, and even celebrate, what I can eat rather than what is currently unavailable or better off avoiding. I was literally dancing in my kitchen when I realized that garlic, onions, and ginger were ok. With those you can do wonders to any dish.

So this whole saga is to say that years of travel, both in my kitchen and in the outside world, was a way to discover the blessings that lie within challenges. Traveling is sometimes not as romantic as the books make it out to be – leaving you homesick, unshowered, stranded in an airport in Belgrade with no idea what to do for 24 hours, or simply in a foreign land where everything is strange and uncomfortable. But those experiences have made me resourceful, optimistic, confident, and capable because I lived with the fear and uncertainty and came out on the other side a little bit wiser and a little bit better. The same goes with food and dietary challenges – sometimes you are frustrated, singled out, in a food desert with nothing to eat, feeling deprived, etc etc. But with dietary restrictions you learn to appreciate simple food, realize that nothing can beat a home-cooked meal (besides someone else doing your dishes), exercise your creative muscle, and discover an entirely new appreciation of life, if not some new ingredients and recipes. Truly. This recipe was born out of gratitude – focusing on the positive rather than the negative – and a willingness to always look for the opportunities that are sometimes obscured by challenges.

Lamb in Coconut Sauce
2 – 4 lamb chops (I use two. You’ll have extra sauce, but it is great for adding to fish, veggies, chicken, meat, anything that needs some oomph!)
coconut oil
1 onion, cut into thumb-sized chunks (My sister wants you to know that I have small thumbs. I’m working on another comparison measurement)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T turmeric
1 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon, optional
1 cup of homemade broth, I prefer chicken
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 small bunch of spinach (about 3 cups chopped)

Add 1 T of coconut oil to a large frying pan and sear the lamb chops on both sides. Use medium high heat and sear for about 3 minutes per side. The point is to get a nice brown crust on the meat rather than cook it all the way through. Remove the meat and add 1 t of coconut oil if the pan looks a bit dry. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until a good color develops. Add the minced garlic cloves, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon and cook for about 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and add the meat, broth, and coconut milk. Stir it all around a bit so the coconut milk mixes in. Cover and cook on low for about one hour, until the lamb is tender and the onions are translucent. Add the spinach and cook another 10 minutes or until the spinach is soft and wilted. 

I served this to a friend who has zero food allergies or restrictions, and she said it look liked something that she would order at a fancy restaurant. Simple and elegant are not mutually exclusive, and neither is AIP-friendly and delicious.

Happy adventuring!

Shared at Real Food Wednesday

Lamb with Coconut Sauce
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 – 4 lamb chops
  • coconut oil
  • 1 onion, cut into thumb-sized chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T turmeric
  • 1 t ginger
  • ½ t cinnamon, optional
  • 1 cup of homemade broth, I prefer chicken
  • ¾ cup coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch of spinach (about 3 cups chopped)
Instructions
  1. Add 1 T of coconut oil to a large frying pan and sear the lamb chops on both sides. Use medium high heat and sear for about 3 minutes per side. The point is to get a nice brown crust on the meat rather than cook it all the way through. Remove the meat and add 1 t of coconut oil if the pan looks a bit dry. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until a good color develops. Add the minced garlic cloves, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon and cook for about 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and add the meat, broth, and coconut milk. Stir it all around a bit so the coconut milk mixes in. Cover and cook on low for about one hour, until the lamb is tender and the onions are translucent. Add the spinach and cook another 10 minutes or until the spinach is soft and wilted.