THE food world, and particularly those of us who love spices, are all a twitter on hearing the news that Indian cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey has just written another cook book.
This one is especially for those who feel that Indian food takes a long time and a ton of ingredients to make. It is entitled Curry Easy and is published by Ebury Press.
Madhur taught classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School several times during the 1980s and 1990s and we all loved her food. She has built up a devoted following all over the world. Her carefully-chosen and finely-tuned recipes have introduced several generations to spices and her meticulously-tested recipes have given all of us the confidence to experiment. For my own part, Madhur’s cooking classes were the beginning of a love affair with India and Indian food which has endured for several decades.
Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we are also fortunate to have access to super fresh spices imported directly from India by Arun Kapil of Green Saffron Spices. These are particularly easy to access if you live in the Cork area because Arun and his wife Olive charm people at several farmers’ markets every week: Macroom on Tuesday; Mahon Point on Thursday; Midleton on Saturday and Limerick Milk Market on Friday and Saturday.
Otherwise, Green Saffron spices and spice mixes are available from 62 different outlets in Ireland. Visit www.green saffron.com to find your closest shop.
When purchasing spices, buy them in small quantities from a shop or a stall with a quick turnover. Try as far as possible to buy whole spices with the exception of turmeric, cayenne, paprika (mostly sold ground) and ground ginger, which you may need for baking ginger bread. Whole spices are infinitely more flavourful than ground.
If you want to use whole spices on a regular basis it’s worth investing in a good pestle and mortar or spice grinder. An electric coffee grinder works brilliantly but we also love our Mexican Mojacete made of coarse lava rock. It makes hand grinding so much easier than struggling with a smooth pestle and mortar.
As soon as spices are ground the flavour starts to tick away and as they get older the flavour and aroma diminishes rapidly. Once you start to experiment with spices there is no going back; they add magic to your food.
Having a few jars of spices in your kitchen is like having a wonderful Pandora’s Box to dip into. Depending on the combination of spices you use, you can add the flavours of the Far East, Mexico or Morocco.
It may seem intimidating at first, but you will soon be able to judge how much to use and what combinations work best. It’s good advice to start by using one spice at a time, say cumin or coriander. You will soon be able to judge the strength of the spice and then you can start to combine and add other spices to compliment the original one or two. Jaffrey’s essential spices are cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, turmeric, chillies, coriander, fenugreek and asafoetida.
Beena’s Fish Curry
1¼ lb (570g) Mahi Mahi (or any other firm fish, eg monkfish) cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces
16 fl ozs (450ml) coconut milk (preferably fresh) or 400ml (1 x 14oz) can coconut milk (brand: Chaokoh)
1½ fl ozs (40ml) coconut oil
2 tbsp chopped shallot
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
2 green chillies, split lengthwise
¾ tsp turmeric
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 oz (25g) dry tamarind and 2 fl. ozs (50ml) hot water
Salt to taste
½ fl oz (12ml) coconut oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tbsp fresh curry leaves
Rice and poppodums
Heat 12ml (1½ fl oz) coconut oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots, ginger and green chillies. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until they start to turn brown.
Add the turmeric, sugar, chilli powder and coriander. Stir and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and the tamarind water. Season with salt and add the fish. Cover and poach the fish over a medium heat until just cooked — monkfish will take 5-6 minutes.
To prepare the tempering: Heat ½ fl oz coconut oil in small saucepan, when the oil is smoking hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds finish crackling, pour the tempering over the curry.
If possible leave the curry overnight in a cool place.
To serve, bring to boil in the same pot and serve with rice and poppodums.
How to prepare tamarind: Soak the tamarind for 30 mins to 1 hour in 50ml (2fl oz) hot water in a small non-metallic bowl. (The water should cover the tamarind.) Strain through a sieve, discard the pulp — the strained liquid is your tamarind water.
This is basically plain boiled rice, but with added chopped coriander. This way of cooking rice is great — you can keep it warm really well for about half an hour, or you can reheat it.
1 teaspoon salt
300g (10½ozs) basmati rice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or 25g (1oz) butter
2 tbsp chopped coriander (or mint)
Bring a big saucepan of water to the boil. Add one teaspoon salt and the rice, stir, and let boil for 5 minutes. By this stage the grains should be three-quarters cooked. Strain through a sieve, and place the rice in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil or butter, and season to taste. Leave in a low oven, 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1, for 10-15 minutes, by which time it should be lovely and fluffy. If you want to prepare it half an hour in advance, put it into an oven at 110C/225F/Gas Mark ¼. Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and serve.
Rachel’s Roasted Vegetable Coconut Curry
The creamy coconut milk and myriad spices grant these vegetables both elegance and luxury. Roasting the vegetables in the paste really brings out their sweetness. Making your own curry paste takes minutes and the complex depth of flavour means it’s always worth doing.
Serves 8–10 Vegetarian
2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk
600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
400ml (14fl oz) natural yoghurt
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
6 parsnips, peeled, cores removed and flesh cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
700g (1½lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
4 onions, peeled and cut into eighths
150g spinach (any large stalks removed before weighing), chopped
For the paste:
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chana masala
50g (2oz) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 red chillis, deseeded
200g (7oz) onions, peeled and quartered
50ml (2fl oz) vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
Large bunch of coriander, chopped
100g (3½oz) cashew nuts, toasted and chopped
200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt or crème fraîche
Large casserole dish or saucepan
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas mark 3.
First make the paste. Place a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the coriander, cumin and chana masala. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute or until they start to pop, then crush.
Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, onions and vegetable oil in a food processor and whiz for 2–3 minutes or until smooth.
Pour this mixture into a large saucepan or casserole dish and stir in the freshly ground spices, along with the turmeric, sugar and salt, then place on a medium–low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced slightly.
Remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture into a large bowl.
Pour the coconut milk and stock into the remaining half in the saucepan or casserole dish, stirring to combine.
Stir the yoghurt into the spice paste in the bowl, then add the root vegetables and onions and stir in the mixture to thoroughly coat.
Tip into 1–2 roasting tins or baking trays and cook in the oven for about an hour or until lightly browned.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and add to the saucepan or casserole dish.
Place on a medium heat for a few minutes to warm through, and then stir in the spinach and spoon into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a scattering of the toasted nuts and a spoonful of yoghurt or crème fraîche.
Mild Madras Curry with Fresh Spices
2 lb (900g) boneless lamb (leg or shoulder is perfect)
4 ozs (110g) almonds
16 fl ozs (475ml) light cream
1 tbsp pounded fresh green ginger
2oz (50g) ghee or clarified butter
4 onions — sliced in rings
4 cloves of garlic — crushed
2 tsp coriander seed
2 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp green cardamom seeds, start with whole green cardamom pods if possible
8 whole cloves
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tsp sugar
Some freshly squeezed lime juice
Segments of lime
Trim the meat of the majority of the fat. Blanch, peel and chop up the almonds (they should be the texture of nibbed almonds).
Put into a small saucepan with the cream and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile peel the ginger thinly with a vegetable peeler, pound into a paste in a pestle and mortar, or chop finely with a knife, or grate finely on a slivery grater.
Cut the meat into 4 cm (1½in) cubes and mix it with the ginger and a sprinkling of salt.
Melt the butter and cook the onion rings and crushed garlic over a gentle for 5 minutes. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and measure one teaspoon. Discard the pods.
Grind the fresh spices, coriander, pepper, cardamom and cloves in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Add the spices to the onions and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
Remove the onions and then add the meat to the saucepan. Stir over a high heat until the meat browns. Return the onion and spices to the pot. Add the nut milk, turmeric and sugar. Stir well. Cover and simmer gently on top of the stove or better still in a low oven 160C/325F/gas mark 3, until the meat is cooked (1 hour approx.) Finish by adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice to taste.
Serve with plain boiled rice, lime segments and other curry accompaniments which might include — bowls of chopped mango, tomato chutney, mint chutney, raita, sliced bananas, chopped apples and poppodums.
A hot chilli sauce is also good and of course some Indian breads such as naan or paratha.
Note: 1 biggish leg of lamb or mutton will yield approx. 3 lbs (1.35kg) of meat.
DAMSONS are in season now and still grow wild in Ireland in ditches along farm boundaries. They usually ripen towards the end of September, so find out where you can gather them to make into damson sauce — delicious with duck breast or wild duck.
Damson or Plum Sauce
450g (1lb) damsons or blood plums 225g (8oz) sugar 2 cloves 2.5cm (1in) piece cinnamon stick 25g (1oz) butter 2 tbsp red currant jelly 110ml (4fl oz) port
Put the plums into a stainless-steel saucepan with the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, one tablespoon water and the butter. Cook slowly until reduced to a pulp.
Push the fruit through a fine sieve and return the purée to a clean saucepan.
Add the redcurrant jelly and port, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
The sauce may be served either hot or cold. It keeps well.
- IRISH apples are now in season. There are so few Irish apple growers left so let’s support the valiant growers who remain. Seek out Keanes of Crinnaghtaun Fruit Farm in Cappoquin (058) 54258, Con Tras Apple Farm (052) 7441459 and Philip Little — Little Apple Company, Piltown, Co Kilkenny (051) 567872.
- The new edition of the Seilide, the Slow Food magazine, has just gone online, packed with articles on food and food issues. www.slowfoodireland.com
- There are two exciting practical skills courses coming up at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
If you’d like to learn how to make and cook pizzas in a wood burning oven, Philip Dennhardt will teach a master-class from dough to plate on Friday, October 29, from 2pm to 5pm — €85.
For those who would like to learn some basic butchery skills Philip Dennhardt will teach a class on Saturday, October 2, 9.30am – 5pm. This is an opportunity for those who would like to take a whole pig and turn every morsel into something delicious. This is the ideal way to pick up plenty of hints and tips on ways of cooking and preserving pork. Light lunch included. Telephone 021 4646785 or book online www.cookingisfun.ie.
- Clare Harvest Banquet 2010 will take place on Friday, October 8 at the Falls Hotel, Ennistymon, Co. Clare. They will be boiling seawater to make their own salt and making butter to cook the food in for this feast — 065 7071004 for tickets.
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