Lamb Vadouvan

Lamb Vadouvan

I’m getting a bit weary of Francofiles blaming the demise of French culture on American food. Sure the world is shrinking and waistlines are expanding. McDonald’s certainly plays a role in both of these phenomena, but it’s hardly new and it didn’t start with fast food. I see it this way: after 14 seasons of television Ozzie and Harriet started to look like each other. It’s the same for planet Earth. After 14 centuries of globalization our world-wide culinary traditions have started to look a lot alike as well. I’ve got Lamb Vadouvan with Lentils, Quinoa, and Chickpeas to prove it for once and for all.

It’s nobody’s fault and it certainly did not start with Americans, but the world wasn’t always so globally homogeneous. It started becoming that way with the onset of continental travel (boats not planes). Which has led us on a path where a fritter in France is a donut in Denmark and a beignet in Boston.

But what about curries? Curries might just be the soul food of India. Yet, they can be bland in Britain and blazing in Bangkok. But in India, a curry is a curry and it’s always been that way – right?


Curry is nothing more than a spice blend. Sure there are expected components in Indian curries such as cumin, coriander, and turmeric. How much and what else is pretty much up to the cook. If there’s one thing I know about cooks it’s that they reach for the things they like, especially in a pinch.

Americans like ketchup. Indians like cumin. The French like shallots. What if a Frenchman in Pondicherry, India (circa 1814 or so) decided that his curry needed a hit of home. What if that chef reached for a shallot instead of ginger? My guess is he’d begin to believe that he made the local dish that much better with a bit of French influence.

Wine Pairing

California Rhône blends: Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec 

California Rhône blends: Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec
Love to say “Châteauneuf du Pape” but can’t afford to buy it? This famous French mélange is one of my favorite wines– but you won’t find me stockpiling cases and knocking back a glass or two every day. Fortunately a closer-to-home, easier-on-the-wallet alternative exists: California Rhône blends from the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. California […]
Ken Eskenazi

Price $17

Pairs well with Asian cuisine, barbecue, grilled foods, fresh herbs

Well that’s exactly how we got the very French sounding curry dish known as vadouvan. It’s also how this American food blogger decided to use a vadouvan curry paste to flavor a globally-influenced Lamb Vadouvan with Lentils, Quinoa, and Chickpeas.

Now for the facts: Vadouvan is a spice blend that became popular in the former French territories of Southern India. The blend has as many personalities as the number of cooks who make it. Typically, it consists of shallots and garlic (à la the French influence) as well as fenugreek, and a host of warm spices that can include turmeric, cumin, cardamom, and mustard seeds.

Lamb Vadouvan

My point is this. Yes, the world is shrinking. Yes, you can get crappy American burgers on the Champs-Élysées. But (to borrow an American colloquialism) it ain’t nothin’ new. As a colonial power, France persuaded its territories to adopt some form of full-fledged Frenchiness. Be it the food, the language, or the urban planning. There are parts of Pondicherry, India that even today feel as thoroughly French as the boulevards in their city grid, and the shallots that show up in (nearly) every curry pot. GREG

PS In fact, the French croissant is as widely traveled as the American burger.

Vadouvan SauceBeckmen Cuvee Le BecLentils and QuinoaLamb smeared with vadouvan sauceLamb Vadouvan with Lentils, Quinoa, & Chickpeas

Grilled Lamb Vadouvan with Lentils, Quinoa, and Chickpeas 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Vadouvan paste adapted from The Lemonade CookbookPublished
Grilled Lamb Vadouvan with Lentils, Quinoa, and Chickpeas


  • 2 tablespoon grainy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoon sweet curry powder
  • 2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (plus more for seasoning)
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup peeled and chopped shallot
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup mirin
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup canola oil (or other mild flavored oil)
  • 6 boneless lamb sirloin chops (about 2 pounds total) you may aletnately use bone in loin chops, just adjust cooking times
  • ½ cup beluga lentils
  • 1 small onion (peeled and halved through root end)
  • 1 carrot (cut into chunks)
  • 1 stalk celery (cut into chunks)
  • 2 cup vegetable stock (divided)
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 2 Roma tomatoes (halved, seeded and diced)
  • ½ cup canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed)


Make the vadouvan paste: Place the mustard, curry, cumin, tumeric, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, salt, pepper, cilantro, basil, shallot, garlic, lemon juice, mirin, vinegar, and honey into a blender or food processor. Pulse several times, then blend the mixture until puréed. With the machine running, drizzle in as much of the oil as necessary to create an creamy, fully emulsified paste thick enough to mound on a spoon. Set aside.

Season the lamb: Wash and dry lamb loins then slather them generously with vadouvan paste on both sides. Set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the lentils: In a medium saucepan combine the lentils, onion, carrots, and celery. Pour in 1‑cup stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender about 15 minutes. Let the lentils cool slightly in the liquid then drain them well, discard vegetables and place the lentils into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the quinoa: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine quinoa and remaining 1‑cup broth. Season generously with a big pinch or two salt. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and lower the heat to very low. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender, about 15–20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Let cool somewhat then add them to the bowl with the lentils.

Grill the lamb: Preheat a grill or grill pan to very hot (450–500ºF). Sear the meat on one side and let it cook undisturbed 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the meat over and continue cook another 2–3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 120ºF for medium-rare, or to taste. Move the meat to a plate to rest loosely covered with foil.

Meanwhile assemble the dish: To the large mixing bowl containing the lentils and quinoa, add tomatoes, chickpeas and about 3/4 cup vadouvan paste; toss gently.

Place a scoop of the vadouvan-dressed lentil mixture onto the center of each of 6 plates. Top with a grilled lamb sirloin chop and serve immediately.