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Enjoy flavor of cumin? Pair with lamb for tasty stir-fry

If cumin is offensive to you or to someone you cook for, this dish is not for you. It won’t change your mind or explode your previous notions about cumin.

But if you like the spice, this dish makes good use of it. Start with cumin seed instead of ground cumin to get its true, optimum flavor.

Serve with pearled couscous.

Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 pound boneless leg of lamb

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed (may substitute 1 tablespoon ground cumin)

2 teaspoons sesame oil (regular or toasted)

1/2 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns (may substitute crushed red pepper flakes)

1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1 medium leek

2 medium cloves garlic

1/2 -inch piece ginger root

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

Whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry and cornstarch in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.

Trim off and discard any visible fat from the lamb. Cut the meat into a few broad chunks, and then into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add to the soy sauce mixture, turning until well coated. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the cumin seed in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1 or 2 minutes, shaking the pan to keep the cumin from burning. It should be fragrant. Cool slightly, then grind to a coarse powder (preferably using a mortar and pestle). Transfer to a small bowl, then add the sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorns and black pepper.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat.

Trim the leek to reserve the white part; slit it in half and rinse under cool water to dislodge any grit. Cut crosswise into thin slices. Mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger.

After the wok or skillet is hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle on contact, add the peanut or vegetable oil and swirl to coat.

Add the lamb. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute so the meat begins to sear. Stir-fry for about 1 minute or until the lamb browns but is not quite cooked through.

Add the garlic, ginger and leek; stir-fry for about 1 minute or until the leek has just wilted. Add the seasoning mixture and stir-fry to coat the lamb and cook it through, 1 or 2 minutes.

Divide among individual plates; serve right away. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

– Adapted from “The Chinese Takeout Cookbook,” by Diana Kuan (Random House, 2012).

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