I had these bunches of young Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), a very invasive weed here in the States, which I gathered in Central Park.
There were few people in the woods. Some birdwatchers - easily identified by their binoculars and camouflaged super-telephoto lenses. Some lone men sitting on benches looking contemplative, and just a little expectant. That guy with the two big white and tan matching dogs with muddy feet, which roam wildly all over, looking panicked and lost before he barks for them to, C'mon Now! Get Back Here! I don't like him. He's putting on theatre.
Two guys on a bench ignored me studiously as I sliced through some young fat stems of knotweed. A pale and plump mother and daughter looked at me sideways as they took pictures of themselves in all my knotweed haunts. Odd. Foragers in disguise?
And so I had my bunches, eagerly anticipated.
The first night, I made risotto. The second, this curry. And I kept my knotweed fresh in bundles in a little water. I think it grew, overnight.
It's probably worth mentioning what you may already know: That curry is thought to come from the Tamil word kari (கறி), which means sauce. This is not the powdered yellow stuff labeled "curry". Although that has its - limited - uses, too.
Knotweed, when subjected to heat, turns a pale, artificial pepperminty colour. And retains its shape, till you poke it. Then it collapses into supple creaminess, its texture soft and wonderful. It comes from Asia, and I wondered how its lemony flavour would fare with coconut milk and lamb.
Well, as it turned out.
This curry starts off wet and turns dry in the sense that the sauce reduces and becomes concentrated. I like it served over brown Basmati rice.
Knotweed Curry for Two
2 lamb shoulder chops, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
1 Tbsp butter or ghee
1 Tbsp very finely chopped lemon grass heart
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced then chopped finely
3 cups Japanese knotweed, chopped roughly - use only young shoots up to about 12" -14" high
3 Tbps fish sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp dried, hot chile
In foaming butter brown the seasoned chops briefly on each side, then remove to a bowl. In the same pot saute the garlic and lemongrass over medium heat, without browning. When fragrant, add the ginger and stir. Return the chops to the pan and add the knotweed, piling it on top of the meat. Add the fish sauce, and then the coconut milk, chile and enough water to barely cover. Bring the liquid to a brief boil and lower to a lightly bubbling simmer until the sauce has reduced to a creamy mass around the meat. This will take about two and a quarter hours. Serve with rice.
A side salad of mango and radishes in a raw ginger and lime-ish dressing with lots of chile, some fish sauce and sugar, is very good. At the last moment I top it with wild arugula and more chile.
I think this curry would be wonderful with fish, too.
I shall find out.