Salty Tip of the Week

Boiling water with salt.

Salt doesn’t make water boil faster. Salt causes it to boil at a higher temperature which reduces cooking time.

 

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A Curry Journey from East to South

Eating curries, from a young age, launched me on a spicy mission.  This ongoing pursuit of a new blend of spices and of the perfect curry has made for an incredible culinary journey.

In Natal, South Africa where I was raised, I am one of a few fortunate people to have an East Indian”Aunty”, who blends the spices for masala and curry spice mixture. This “Aunty”, well actually she is my brother’s and he keeps me in steady supply, made the masala and curry spice mixture used in the recipe below.  The particular blends of spices are mostly determined by the Aunty, of course, but over the years, she has learned what we like.

This doesn’t mean I don’t explore other spice combinations I do BYH, Broaden Your Horizons,  and tackle other spice blends and curry recipes, which makes the journey unique and so much fun.

For me, curry embraces the terms soul food and comfort food. It is seductive and bold. Once you have been lured down this hot path, your palate will demand good seasoning of any meal. Even though my palate does appreciate subtle flavors, it is forever corrupted and tempted to add some hot sauce to bland dishes.


The word curry is derived from kari, a word in Tamil simply meaning sauce.

Along the Coromandel Coast of South-East India, Fort St George is to be found, where Tamil merchants introduced the British East India Company to Kari, which they took to mean vegetables and/or meat cooked with spices with or without a gravy. Fort St George was renamed Madras and again changed, to Chennai, in 1996.

Nevertheless, the term ‘Madras Curry’ is not used in India, as it was really coined by restaurants in Britain.

The myriad variations of those curries from Madras are dictated by each home cook.  Local ingredients and their availability, add to the variations that exist all over the world.
Madras curries are distinguished by the:
  • Colour, the red of chili, paprika or a mixture of both, and the orange of turmeric
  • Spiciness of Garam masala [Garam(hot) Masala (spice mixture). The name masala coming from the Hindi word for spice], black peppercorns and chilies
  • Sleekness of coconut (or yogurt)
  • Sweet and sour fruitiness of tamarind, lemon, lime or vinegar
  • Pungency of garlic and onion or asafoetida
  • Licorice-taste of anise and ginger
  • Salt
  • Oil may be ghee (clarified butter) or coconut
  • Fresh curry leaves or cilantro (fresh coriander) can be added at the end
  • If meat is used it may be lamb, beef, or chicken. When made of beef or lamb it is called Gosht Madras.

The variations include the roasting of many of the spices including dried chilies, coriander seed, aniseed, cumin, and cinnamon.  These dried roasted ingredients are ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder and mixed with turmeric. Storage also lends itself to the variations, by being stored as a powder, a paste with vinegar or as an oil spice infusion.

Common accompaniments to Madras curry include raita and fresh coriander (cilantro). Southern India is more likely to have rice as the main carbohydrate than bread like naan.

The Flavours of History claims the origins of the word curry to be from old English first recorded in ‘The Forme of Cury’ although, in this case, “cury” merely means “cooking”.

That is just a short note about the East Indian origin of curry, but it has traveled far and picked up countless influences at the stops along the way. Influences that have led to East Indian friends living abroad to share that their mothers and aunties, who still live in India, constantly critique their curry dishes and not always favorably.

Right now I would like to take you on a quick East-South trip to one of those stops, to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa where there is a strong Malaysian influence on curry dishes. Here a people originated and became known as the Cape-Malays. They created many delectable Cape-Malay dishes that are still great favorites today.

Here is my Chicken Curry recipe, with Cape-Malay influences.


WAYNE’S CHICKEN CURRY RECIPE

 

AUTHOR: Wayne Stanley

CUISINE: Cape-Malay

COURSE: Main

PREP TIME: 30 mins

COOK TIME: 60 mins

TOTAL TIME: 90 mins

SERVES: 6-8

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

2 tbsp. Fresh ginger finely chopped or grated

1 green pepper cut into 2cm strips (yellow and or orange peppers can be substituted)

3 jalapeño chili peppers – include the seeds of 2 peppers, finely chopped

1 lemon squeezed juice

796 ml can of crushed tomatoes

1 cup chicken stock

125 ml of apricot jam

16 chicken thighs with the skin intact

1 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped

*Optional: 2 handfuls of fresh green beans halved, they add color and crunch.

1-2 tbsp. of canola oil if using skinless thighs, otherwise use the rendered fat that is rendered from the chicken skin when frying.

 

Dry ingredients:

2 tbsp. masala mixture

1 tbsp. curry powder

2 tsp. cumin spice

1 tbsp. coriander spice

3 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

**(Make the sides ahead of time – see below)

 

 

  • In a heated large pot, Dutch oven preferably, sauté the chicken thighs starting skin-side down until the skin is golden. Remove the chicken pieces and set them aside.
  • Fry the onions in the rendered fat at medium heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Add garlic, ginger, green pepper and jalapeño peppers, fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low, add the dry ingredients, simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Add lemon juice, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and apricot jam.
  • Return the chicken thighs to the pot and bring to the boil, then reduce to low heat, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Start cooking the rice.
  • Add the green beans after about 20 minutes.
  • Taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn off the heat, add the chopped cilantro, let the curry rest for 5 minutes and serve with the sides and condiments.

 

 

I prefer  the chicken with the skin on and bone in, but you may choose to debone them. When the curry is almost finished remove the chicken thighs, set them aside and allow them to cool down, and then pull the chicken off of the bones with your fingers and return the pieces to the curry. You may choose to do this if you think your guests would not want to use their hands.

 

**SUGGESTED SIDES and CONDIMENTS:

Basmati Rice

“South African style Sambals” – see recipe below

Raita – see one of many recipes below

Sliced banana placed in cow’s milk or coconut milk

Shredded coconut to sprinkle

Fruit Chutney e.g. Mrs. Ball’s

(The addition of the sweet ingredients is the Malaysian influence).

 

BASMATI RICE

2 cups of rice

3 cups of water

2.5 ml of salt

Rinse the rice in cold water, drain and then soak in cold water for 30 minutes.

Bring the water to boil in a medium sized pot. Add rice and salt. Stir and cover. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Let stand covered for 10 minutes. Add butter to taste and fluff with a fork.

 

SOUTH AFRICAN STYLE SAMBALS

Sambals are served with most Cape Malay dishes – cool with spicy dishes and warm with bland dishes. Sambals must be crisp and keep their color so are best made just before the meal.

2 fresh tomatoes chopped fine

1 onion chopped fine

1 jalapeño chili pepper chopped fine

125 ml white wine vinegar

75 ml water

1 tsp. sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a dish that can be covered and place in the fridge.

Serve in small individual dishes with the curry.

 

RAITA

1 cup of greek yogurt

I cup of sour cream

1 cucumber coarsely grated

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1-2 sprigs of fresh mint

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a dish that can be covered and place in the fridge.

Serve in small individual dishes with the curry.

 

Wine Pairing:

Although it is difficult to pair wine with foods containing chilies consider these.

White: (fruity) Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon /Fumé Blanc

Red: (soft and fruity) Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Zinfandel
© Wayne Stanley 2016

I hope you enjoy making and eating this curry. Please feel free to experiment with it and let me know how it turned out.

 

 


WAYNE’S CHICKEN CURRY RECIPE by Wayne Stanley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Brodetto, and Vanilla Pannacotta

So yesterday I decided to treat my wife, as I do on a regular basis, in case that typical thought popped into your head. As I am currently unemployed I have become the houseboy, which is not a completely accurate description, as I do not have to perform any undesirable tasks for the mistress of the house. But I am straying way off topic right now. We can always explore this further at another time.

As much as I have spent many wonderful and fruitful hours in the kitchen, I’m not a baker nor a dessert maker, but I’d watched a guy on TV describe making pannacotta with such pleasure, that I was inspired to try making it from scratch.

Pannacotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. It can then be flavored with many options like brandy, coffee, fruit or vanilla, as in this recipe. The recipe called for gelatin which I have never ever used before. Dutifully I followed the instructions adding a tablespoon of cold water to the gelatin powder and ended up with a sticky ball the size of a grape inside the whisk. The dissolved gelatin was supposed to be poured, which was clearly not going to happen with this glutinous little rival. So I checked the instructions on the gelatin package, (yeah-yeah), I hear it, R.T.F.M., which says to use hot water to dissolve the powder into. Finally, I had a clear liquid that could be poured. With an immense sense of accomplishment, I could measure this warm rich vanilla flavoured liquid into some ramekin dishes, and popped them in the fridge.

I then proceeded to prepare the Brodetto.

Brodetto is Italian fish stew, and there are multiple variations on the recipe. I chose Brodetto Ancona style.

The recipe I chose called for red snapper. As there is no fishmonger in the little town where I live, I headed off to the supermarket, only to find out that there was no red snapper available. The young girl, I swear could not be older than 16, behind the deli counter assured me that the fresh rockfish that was on display is a suitable substitute. Not really convinced of that, I bought the rockfish fillets.

Once I arrived home, and a quick search on Google, I confirmed that she was, in fact, right about the Pacific Rockfish, also known as Pacific Red Snapper.

So along with fresh clams, 3 tiny lobster tails and bay scallops my first attempt at this fish stew began its life. The rockfish turned out to be succulent bathed in the tomato-rich broth with toasted yeasty Italian bread on the side for one of the servings and smothered with the stew for the other serving. The clams and scallops still held their individual flavours. This may be a peasant meal but it made me feel like I owned the sea.

I served the Pannacotta on shortbread slices, with warmed orange marmalade on top which oozed down the sides like molten lava melting the Pannacotta along its way. I believe I’ve converted my wife to a dessert lover, well at least to a Vanilla Pannacotta lover.

I am not sorry, or maybe just a little, that there isn’t a single photo, as the plates were polished off.

Probiotic Foods

Probiotics are the live bacteria and yeasts that are essential to maintain our health.They are essential for our digestive system. A question that crosses our minds, is that bacteria and yeasts are associated with illnesses, which is true. However our bodies have both good and bad bacteria and yeasts, and probiotics are the good ones.

Probiotics are usually taken as supplements, but consider that there are foods that are probiotics.

These foods include aged cheeses, miso soup, sauerkraut, Kimchi, and Tempeh. Continue reading “Probiotic Foods”

Salt, the Expensive Seasoning.

 

 

Salt has become the expensive seasoning, as it is necessary to attend an expensive restaurant to experience it.

In fact, adequate seasoning is also becoming scarce, unless you are prepared to pay for it. The familiar salt cellar is no longer to be found on the tables of most restaurants nowadays, even though the pepper grinder still appears.

Most chefs do have the skill of salting and seasoning their food well, and are not the one’s to blame for this new travesty. This practice is  expected of chefs by a good-intentioned, misguided public, that a low sodium diet requires it. The low sodium diet is not even based on sound medical evidence.

I remember watching Chef Mark McEwan, of North 44, One, Bymark, Fabbrica and McEwan Grocery, Catering and Prepared Meals fame, on TV, during his catering show, training the sous chefs to season everything well, down to each leaf in the salad, emphasizing  that nothing unseasoned should land on the plate. In fact, he advocated seasoning the garnish too, although having garnishes on a plate merely for the sake of garnish, is a topic for another day.

So many functions, come to mind, where I was served a starter salad, that consisted of some nondescript leaves, with a few splashes, and I mean a few only, of dressing drizzled on the top. Now, there is no way that I can toss this salad at the table without half of it ending up on the tablecloth, and is pointless, as there isn’t enough seasoning/dressing anyway.

Ponder the thought of a simple egg without salt, rice without salt, or potato chips without salt, and you may remark that it goes without saying, that those need to be salted. Well, shouldn’t every other ingredient in the culinary world be treated with the same respect?