Authentic South African lamb curry, made with leftover lamb and served in a soft fluffy pita bread to mop up all the delicious juices.
Leftover lamb curry in 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 leftover 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. Leftover 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 for a few minutes while I prepare the vegetables.
Because the lamb is already cooked, this meal is ready in the time it takes the vegetables to cook. And because it’s served in a pita bread you don’t even have to bother to make any rice to serve with it.
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 list of ingredients and full instructions on how to make leftover lamb curry in pita bread on the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
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.
- garam masala
- chili flakes
- mustard seeds
- fennel seeds
- ground coriander
- cinnamon (optional)
- bay leaves (optional)
Lamb and vegetables
- leftover 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 – (or your favourite 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 dissolve 1 stock cube in 1 cup of boiling water
- cornflour mixed with a little water for thickening
- salt and pepper to taste
- pita bread for serving
- Cut the leftover 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!
- If you don’t have stock, make your own by dissolving a chicken or vegetable stock cube in one cup of boiling water
Fry the spices
- Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan and add all the spices. I find it easiest to measure all the spices out onto a plate and then tip them all in at once.
- When adding the spices, adjust the chili according to your own taste – If you want more of a kick then just increase the amount. For a milder flavour add less chili, or leave it out altogether.
- Keep stirring the spices as you fry so that they don’t stick to the pan. Frying the spices releases the flavour and makes for a tastier dish.
- Stir the meat into the spices and ensure that all pieces are well coated with the spice mixture.
- Once the meat is well coated, remove from the frying pan to a plate and set aside.
Cook the vegetables
- Add a little more sunflower oil to the frying pan and fry the onions and celery with the garlic until they are starting to soften.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes (fresh and canned), chutney, bay leaves (if using) and the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to the boil then turn down the heat to a simmer.
- Add the spice-coated lamb back to the pan and stir, cover the frying pan with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- I like to taste the sauce half way through the cooking process so that I can adjust the flavouring if necessary.
- Once the vegetables are soft, remove the bay leaves and stir in the frozen peas.
- 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.
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipe measurements, 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.
Pin for later
Why not pin this recipe for leftover lamb curry to your pinterest board so you can make it later. Just click the image below.
Recipe – Lamb curry in pita bread
Leftover lamb curry in pita
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- Sharp Knife
- Chopping Board
- Large frying pan with lid
- 2 – 3 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 Garam Masala
- 1 tablespoon Cumin
- 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 optional – 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 the frying pan. Add all the spices and fry, stirring continuously, for 1 minute
- Add the meat and stir well to coat. Once coated remove from the pan to a plate and set aside while you prepare the vegetables
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and fry the onions, celery and garlic until they start to soften.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes (fresh and tinned), garlic, chutney and chicken stock.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Stir in the spice-coated meat, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
- Taste for flavour and seasoning half way through the cooking time and adjust if necessary.
- Add the peas and remove the bay leaves (if used)
- To thicken the sauce, drizzle the cornflour and water mixture in slowly, stirring continuously,and allow to simmer for a few minutes until thickened. You may not need all the cornflour mixture – it depends on how much liquid is in the pan.
- 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.
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What do you make with leftover lamb? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.