Authentic South African lamb curry, made with leftover lamb and served in a crispy pita bread.
When you are only cooking for 2 people it is a bit of a waste to make an entire leg of lamb. Unfortunately, Graham loves lamb so it does feature on the menu quite often. I’m never quite sure what to do with the leftovers. My Yorkshire heritage won’t let me throw them away, and there are only so many cold lamb sandwiches you can eat.
I’ve devised this recipe for leftover lamb curry, based on a traditional South African curry recipe and it is delicious. It’s packed with succulent lamb chunks and vegetables, with a spicy gravy that goes so well with a pita bread. Bonus – Graham gets to eat lamb more often, and I don’t have to throw anything away.
When I have left over lamb from a roast, I chop into small pieces, and then pack it into a ziploc bag and freeze for when I want to make this recipe. Left over lamb stored in this way will keep for up to 3 months. To use it, I just take it from the freezer and defrost it in the microwave or a few minutes while I prepare the vegetables.
An additional bonus is that this recipe is made in an electric pressure cooker so it is ready to serve in next to no time. Of course, if you don’t have an electric pressure cooker you can still make it. I’ve included instructions for stove-top cooking too (in italics below).
A brief history of South African curry
In England, there are many different curries – Korma, Madras, Tikka Masala, Jalfrezi, Vindaloo… the list goes on. In South Africa, there are 2 main variants, Durban curry, and Cape Malay curry.
Durban curry, probably the only curry in the world to be named after a city. It is a reddish-coloured, slightly oily and extremely hot and spicy curry, its origins going back to 1860 when the first Indian labourers arrived to work on the sugar plantations. Legend has it that when the labourers went to work they took left-over curry from the previous night’s supper for their lunch. Instead of a container, they carried their curry in a hollowed-out loaf of bread, and so the famous South African bunny chow was born.
Cape Malay curry is a much milder curry, known for combining sweet and savoury flavours. It often contains dried fruit such as apricots and sweet spices such as cinnamon. Traditionally the spices are fried in a little oil to release their flavour, before being mixed with the rest of the ingredients
Cape Malay curry has its origins in the cuisine of the slaves who were brought from Indonesia and parts of Africa in the early 17th century to work on the farms in Cape Town.
I have based my lamb curry on the traditional Cape Malay recipe, using Mango Chutney to provide a hint of sweetness.
You can make this curry as mild or as hot as you like – just adjust the chilli to suit your family’s taste.
How to make lamb curry in pita bread
You can get the complete recipe on the printable recipe card below.
You will need the following ingredients. Don’t be put off by the long list – a lot of the items are spices and vegetables that you probably have in your cupboard anyway.
- 2 Tablespoons each
- medium strength Curry Powder
- Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon each
- Chilli flakes (optional – this adds the heat)
- Mustard Seeds
- Fennel Seeds
- ground Corriander
- Cinnamon (optional – if you don’t like cinnamon you can leave it out).
- 2 Bay Leaves remove before serving
Lamb and vegetables
- 2 cups cooked Roast Lamb cubed
- Potatoes, carrot, celery and onions – these should all be cut into approximately 1cm dice. You need to keep the vegetables quite small so they fit nicely into the pita bread
- Garlic – you can use either freshly minced cloves, or just use a spoonful from a jar of crushed garlic
- Fresh Tomatoes – also chopped into small pieces
- Canned Chopped Tomatoes
- Frozen Petit Pois or Garden Peas
- Mango Chutney – this gives a hint of sweetness
- Sunflower Oil for frying spices and onion
- Chicken Stock – if you don’t have fresh chicken stock to hand, just dissovle 1 stock cube in 1 cup of boiling water
- Cornflour mixed with a little water for thickening
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 to 8 pockets (not packets 🙂 ) Pita bread for serving
Prepare the meat and vegetables
- Cut the left over lamb into 1″ cubes and set aside.
- Peel and chop the potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes and set aside. Make the pieces quite small (about 1/2″ or 1cm in size). They are going to be served inside a pita bread so smaller chunks of veggies means you will be able to fit more in!
Fry the spices
- Heat up your pressure cooker (use the browning function), tip in all the spices and fry them in a little hot oil for about 1 minutes.
- When adding the spices, adjust the chilli according to your own taste – If you want more of a kick then just increase the amount. For a milder flavour add less chilli, or leave it out altogether.
- Keep stirring the spices as you fry so that they don’t stick. Frying the spices releases the flavour and makes for a tastier dish.
- If you don’t have an electric pressure cooker, you can just fry the spices in oil in a large saucepan.
- Stir the meat into the spices and ensure that all pieces are well coated with the spice mixture.
Add the vegetables and cook
- Add the chopped vegetables, the tinned tomatoes, the chutney and the chicken stock and let it all come to the boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then put the lid on the pressure cooker and set the required function. I use the meat function with the timer set for 12 minutes.
- If you are using a saucepan just adjust the heat to a strong simmer, cover with a lid and leave until the vegetables are soft (20 to 25 minutes).
- Once the 12 minutes is up, release the pressure, then open the lid and stir in the frozen peas. Remove the bay leaves.
- Thicken the cooking juices with the cornflour which has been mixed with a couple of tablespoons of water. You may find you don’t need all the cornflour, so add it slowly. The amount you will need depends on the amount of liquid that is in the pan. You are looking for the consistency of thick gravy.
Warm the pita bread in the oven or microwave, or heat gently in a dry frying pan on the stove. Fill the warmed pita bread with the curry mixture and serve.
If you don’t want to use pita bread, you could serve this curry over a bowl of white rice.
Don’t have an electric pressure cooker?
To reiterate the steps for stove-top cooking. Use a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Follow all the steps of the recipe, but just adjust the cooking time to give the vegetables time to soften. Don’t boil vigorously. Just adjust the heat to a strong simmer, and keep your eye on it so it doesn’t boil dry.
I have a traditional pressure cooker that you place on the stove, but I also have an electric pressure cooker (instant pot if you live in the US) which is absolutely amazing. You just plug it in, select what you are cooking from the buttons on the front and then just leave it to do it’s thing. It adjusts the pressure according to what you have selected. It also has settings that allow you to use it either as a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, which makes it great value for money. Two appliances for the price of one!
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipes, I have created a handy Cookery Conversion Calculator which will convert ingredients between grams, ounces, tablespoons, cups and millilitres. I hope you will find it useful.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read about how to do this in this post on baking at high altitudes.
Recipe – Lamb curry in pita
Lamb curry in Pita
- Sharp Knife
- Chopping Board
- Electric pressure cooker
- 2 cups cooked Roast Lamb cubed
- 2 medium Potatoes cut into 2 cm dice
- 1 largish Carrot cut into 1 cm dice
- 1 stick Celery cut into 1 cm slices
- 2 medium Onions cut into 1 cm dice
- 2 cloves Garlic chopped
- 2 fresh Tomatoes chopped
- 1 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Frozen Petit Pois or Garden Peas
- 2 Tablespoons Mango Chutney
- 2 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil for frying spices and onion
- 1 cup Chicken Stock You can substitute chicken stock with 1 stock cube dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
- 1 Tablespoon Cornflour mixed to a thin paste with a little water for thickening
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 to 8 pockets Pita bread for serving
- 2 Tablespoons medium strength Curry Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Chilli flakes optional
- 1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground Corriander
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon optional
- 2 Bay Leaves remove before serving
- Peel and chop the vegetables into smallish chunks and set aside.
- Chop the meat into cubes and set aside.
- Heat the oil in your pressure cooker. Add all the spices and fry, stirring continuously, for 1 minute
- Add the meat and stir well to coat
- Add the potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes (fresh and tinned), garlic, chutney and chicken stock.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Set the pressure to the meat function and cook under pressure for 12 minutes.
- Release the pressure, add the frozen peas and remove the bay leaves.
- Add the cornflour and water mixture slowly, stirring continuously,and allow to simmer for a few minutes until thickened.
- Warm the pita bread in the oven for a few minutes, or place into a dry frying pan and heat gently. Then fill the warmed pita bread with the curry mixture and serve.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
If you made this recipe and enjoyed it, please don’t forget to give me a star rating in the comments below. And if you’d like to get in touch, you can email me on [email protected] I’d love to hear from you.
You can click the buttons below if you’d like to save the recipe to Pinterest or your Yummly recipe box. And don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list so you can grab yourself a copy of my FREE COOKBOOK! If you’d like to continue browsing, just click on this link to all my recipes.
What do you make with leftover lamb? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.