Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Ceylonese" Pork or Beef Curry: one from my memory

When we lived those years in Malaysia, there was a group known as "Ceylonese." I worked with several such colleagues.

During British colonial times, before 1960, many of the railway workers came to "Malaya" from what was then Ceylon. (That island nation just south of India has been known as Sri Lanka since its independence.) Most of the Malaysians of Celonese ancestry were ethnic Tamils and largely Hindu. They were related ancestrally to the Tamils from South India, of whom there were many in Malaysia.

The curry below, however is from the ethnic Sinhalese majority of Sri Lanka. Being Buddhists, they are allowed to eat beef and pork, unlike their Tamil Hindu countrymen.

The "Ceylonese" curry otherwise shares features with South Indian curries, including coconut milk rather than yogurt or tomatoes, multiple spices, ground fennel, lemon grass, curry leaves and fiery taste. My recipe omits the curry leaves because they're hard to find. It is also less hot. But its flavor is rich, different from the more familiar North Indian curries, and uses pork with an option for beef.

This goes well with Basmati rice as a substitute for the "par-boiled" rice or rice cakes of Sri Lanka and South India. I would not salt the rice for this curry (the local rice dishes, though with different rice, are usually not salted).

As always, this sort of dish goes with beer, or a dry Riesling or, perhaps, a Sauvignon Blanc. The recipe serves 6.

"Ceylonese" Pork or Beef Curry

1 1/2 pound pork butt (after trimming off fat) or stewing beef, in 1 1/4-inch cubes
3 stalks lemon grass, fatter half well bruised, top half discarded
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 1/4-inch chunks
1 very large or 2 medium-large onions, diced
1 large bell pepper, red or green, in 1-inch squares
1/2 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (freeze the remainder)
2 cans water
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 inch fresh ginger
4 whole cardamoms
4 whole cloves
5 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided, plus to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar

Prepare the meat. Heat large pot with coconut milk, water, and lemon grass. Boil 5 minutes, then add meat part at a time, letting outside lose the raw color before adding the next portion. Cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is becoming tender (pork 25-35 minutes, beef 55-65 minutes).

Meanwhile prepare remaining ingredients. Store cut potatoes in water. Combine dry ground spices, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus vinegar.

While meat is cooking, in a separate pan, gently fry onions plus whole spices in oil until onions start to turn golden. Lower heat. Add garlic and ginger. Fry 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add ground spice mixture. Stir and fry 2 minutes. Add several tablespoons water and set aside until needed.

When meat is nearly tender, add potatoes plus 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are becoming tender.

Stir in fried spices. Simmer several minutes. Add bell pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat, potatoes, and peppers are tender. Taste, and add salt to taste.

The curry can be served now, but is richer if stored and reheated. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Radish (or Celery Root) Remoulade, a French treat

Radish Remoulade

2 cups thinly sliced red radishes (easiest in food processor with 2-millimeter slicer disc)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Mix sliced radishes with salt. Let sit ten minutes, mixing occasionally. Drain. Soak with fresh water 1 minute and drain. Repeat soaking and draining once more.

Mix in remaining ingredients. Let sit ten minutes. Taste, and add salt, if needed.

Refrigerate until served.

Céleri Rémoulade

Replace radish with a 3 to 4-inch celery root, peeled and coarsely grated. Proceed otherwise as for radish recipe, except salt it only 2 minutes rather than 10, and reduce minced parsley to 1 tablespoon.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Kofta Curry: Spicy Pakistani Meatball and Potato Curry

I have always loved meatballs. Maybe that's from growing up around Italian Americans. Well seasoned ground meat dishes have appealed to me more than steaks and chops for as long as I can remember.

Savory meatballs, especially made with lamb, extend from the Balkan countries through Turkey and the Middle East, to as far east as India. They typically are named some variant of the Persian word kofta.

Here is a curry of meatballs, a kofta curry. Because it is made from beef, this is a Pakistani dish. For Indian kofta, use ground lamb instead. It is a very rich dish, aromatic with spices. Typically, this is not a "hot" curry, as in hot from chilies.

Serve this with lightly salted basmati rice (my blog 1/26/08) and accompany with plain yogurt or raita (my blog 4/25/08).

The recipe serves six when accompanied by rice.

Kofta (Meatball) and Potato Curry

2 medium-large onions, coarsely diced
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cardamoms
3 whole cloves
2 medium large russet potatoes, peeled, in 1-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons ground coriander
7 teaspoons ground cumin
5 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground fennel
3/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, plus to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro with some of the stems

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (not too lean)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 teaspoons cornstarch (not traditional, but works well)

In large pot, fry onion in oil with cinnamon, cardamoms, and cloves, stirring frequently, until starting to turn golden. Add potatoes, and fry, stirring frequently, until outsides appear cooked, 7-8 minutes.

Stir in garlic and ginger, and simmer 1 minute. Add dry spices, and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Add tomato paste, water, and salt. Simmer gently 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, mix meatball ingredients, and knead well. Shape into 1-inch balls.

When sauce has simmered, drop meatballs in, and simmer 20 minutes. Swirl pot to move meatballs around, until they are firm. Then stir gently.

Taste sauce. Add salt, if needed. Stir in coriander leaves and remove from heat.

This is best if cooled, then reheated to serve. The curry can be refrigerated up to 4 days. Taste to check salt after reheating.

Serve with basmati rice, cooked with a little salt (1/2 teaspoon to 1 cup rice), Accompany with yogurt or raita.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Spicy Braised Eggplant with Lentils

A few weeks ago, I did an article in the Living section of the Athens Banner-Herald on eggplant. The article included five international and internationally inspired recipes for using that wonderful vegetable. Eggplant grows extremely well in Georgia, producing heavily in mid to late summer, but cooking it here is pretty much limited to eggplant parmesan and batter-fried strips. Here's one of my recipes from the article.

Although this stew-like dish tastes Mediterranean, it is in fact a creation that combines some of my favorite flavors and textures. During cooking, the eggplant melts down into a rich creamy sauce.

This can serve a substantial vegetable with roasted or grilled meat, or as a main dish when accompanied by rice. Alternatively, if diluted with more liquid, it makes a full-bodied soup.

I enjoy dry, spicy Garnacha/Grenache wines with a dish like this. Alternatively, a Malbec from Argintina does well.

The recipe serves six, with leftovers.

Spicy Braised Eggplant with Lentils

1 pound (2-1/4 cups) dry tan/green (ordinary) lentils
1 medium eggplant (1 to 1-1/4 pounds)
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stick celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons salt plus to taste
2 cups water or unsalted broth
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat (“Italian”) parsley
1/4 cup either canned, evaporated milk or sour cream

Place lentils in large bowl. Add boiling water to cover by 3 inches. Soak until needed.

Peel alternating strips of skin from eggplant, keeping about half the skin attached. Cut eggplant in 1-inch chunks. Soak 30 minutes in salted water (4 teaspoons salt to 8 cups water), stirring occasionally.

In large pot, gently fry onion in oil, stirring frequently, until turning golden. Add celery and garlic. Fry several minutes, then reduce heat.

Stir in seasonings other than salt. After one minute, add tomato and fry until softened, stirring frequently.

Drain eggplant. Add to onion-tomato mixture. Increase heat, and fry 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Drain lentils. Add to pot, along with salt and water or broth. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pot, until lentils are tender but not disintegrated. During cooking, add a little water, if needed, to keep mixture moist.

Taste, and add salt if necessary. Stir in parsley plus milk or sour cream. Heat until bubbling. Remove from heat.

Serve as vegetable side dish or as main dish with rice. Or, add extra liquid, adjust salt, and serve as soup.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Vindaloo: The curry where Portugal meets India

"Fusion" was trendy in restaurant cooking a decade ago. But it often just meant throwing Thai curry paste or coconut milk into an otherwise Western dish. Real fusion, with a small "f," has happened organically and gradually over the ages as cultures interact, instead of by some chef's design.

The Portugese were the first Europeans to extensively explore and live in Asia. Goa, a prominent Portugese colony on the west coast of India from the early 1500s until 1961, was a major cultural meeting ground, where now the largely Indian inhabitants have some Portugese ancestry and Portugese names and practice Catholicism. Goa is also the home of vindaloo, an intensely hot curry, classically of pork (which is not eaten by India's Hindus or Muslims) marinated in vinegar and spices.

The old Portugese dish "Carne de Vinha d'Alhos" (meat cooked with wine and garlic) gradually morphed into "vindaloo" by switching from wine to wine vinegar ("vinegar" means sour, or acidic, wine) to vinegar from other sources, and by increasing the spicing. The curry with the corrupted Portugese name, now a staple in Indian restaurants when made with lamb or chicken, has two characteristics that are unusual in Indian cooking, pork and pickling the meat with vinegar.

The recipe below has much less hot pepper than a Goanese vindaloo. The pickling process for the meat requires 12 to 24 hours.

One recipe will serve six generously. Eat it with unsalted white rice.

Because of the heavy spicing and hot peppers, this dish is a candidate only for beer, and not wine. Alternatively, a cold limeade or iced tea would go well.

Pork Vindaloo

2 1/4 pounds lean pork (butt or loin)
1/4 cup wine vinegar or white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 teaspoons turmeric
4 teaspoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
4 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods
1 large stick cinnamon, broken in half
2 bay leaves, broken in half
2 medium-large onions, diced
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Cilantro for topping

Trim off excess fat from meat. Cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Marinate, cold, 12 to 24 hours with vinegar, garlic and seasonings. Stir from time to time.

In heavy stainless steel or enamel pan (not cast iron or aluminum), fry onions slowly in oil, stirring frequently, until beginning to turn golden.

Add ginger and garlic. Fry, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add tomato paste or tomatoes, and stir and fry briefly.

Add pork and its marinade. Increase heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until meat loses raw color. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender. Add a little water from time to time, so the sauce stays thickly soupy. Add salt when meat is nearly done.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. Taste and add salt, if necessary. The dish is richer in flavor if made ahead and reheated.

When serving, sprinkle generously with coarsely chopped cilantro leaves. Accompany with unsalted white rice.