Sunday, February 23, 2020

Madhur Jaffrey's Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry {Plus a Cookbook Review:From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail}

When I first found Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail, I found myself drawn to the veggie curries and the dals. The first recipe I made was her Natal Red Kidney Bean Curry from Natal in South Africa and it was delicious. This recipe for Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry was chosen simply because I had all the ingredients on hand, namely, a cabbage that needed using up. Madhur says this curry is a great favorite at wedding banquets in Guyana, India where cabbage is rarely added.

I felt the cabbage was a welcome addition, making the overall curry way more satisfying. Despite the hot curry powder and the blended chile base, I found this to be a rather mild curry. So, if you were looking for a spicy curry, you would need to up the hot chiles. I enjoyed this best with a hearty slice of bread on the side.

Written in 2003, Madhur's book details the history of The Curry Trail, complete with pictures, maps, and images. I was expecting a history of spices and instead received a brief history of Indians becoming indentured servants to what is now known as The Curry Trail. There is no doubt that this is a somber part of Indian history, but Madhur goes on to explain that Indian food is one of the only cuisines that has not changed at its core, it has only been added to. Each region of The Curry Trail has added certain ingredients and spices along the way, including places such as America, South America, London, South Africa, the Middle East, and all parts of Asia. As a result, Indian cuisine, such as curries and kebabs, is now the world's most distinctive cuisine and one that is immersed in global culinary traditions.

With its history of food and global traditions, this book has become one of my favorites. I highly suggest searching for it in used bookstores or going to Amazon and buying a used copy. I have searched and to my knowledge, there are no new copies available. Not only is it full of delicious recipes, but the history of The Curry Trail and the stories sprinkled throughout are compelling to any home chef. For those who might be wondering about pictures, there are some pictures of the recipes, as well as many other images, just not pictures of every recipe.

Chapters in this book are: Introduction of The Curry Trail; Chapter 1: Lamb, Pork, Beef, Veal, and Goat; Chapter 2: Poultry and Eggs; Chapter 3: Fish and Seafood; Chapter 4: Vegetables; Chapter 5: Dals, Beans, and Split Peas; Chapter 6: Kebabs and Soups; Chapter 7: Rice, Noodles, and Breads; Chapter 8: Relishes and Accompaniments; as well as Special Ingredients and Techniques. There is truly something in this book for everyone, those who eat meat and those who do not.

Recipes on my list

Chapter 1: Lamb, Pork, Beef, Veal, and Goat
Meatballs in a Curry Sauce (Kofta Curry)
Goan Pork with Potatoes
Curry Beef

Chapter 2: Poultry and Eggs 
Singapore-Style South-Indian Chicken Curry
Ground Chicken Curry
Silken Chicken "Tikka Masala"
Hard-Boiled Eggs with a British Curry Sauce
Poached Eggs in a Creamy Malay Curry Sauce

Chapter 3: Fish and Seafood
Singapore-Style Shrimp Curry
Kerala Crab Curry

From Chapter 4: Vegetables
Potato and Pea Curry
Potato and Tomato Curry
Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Chapter 5: Dals, Beans, and Split Peas
  Already made from Chapter 5
Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry* (posted here)
Natal Red Kidney Bean Curry (below)


Chapter 6: Kebabs and Soups
Beef "Kaait" Kebab
Ground Beef "Chappli" Kebabs
Silken Chicken "Tikka" Kebabs
Chicken Satay
Curried Pork Satay
Shrimp with Sesame Seeds
Thai Beef Curry Soup
Malaysian Shrimp Curry Soup with Noodles
Gujarati Split Pea Soup with Pasta (Dal Dhokli)

Chapter 7: Rice, Noodles, and Breads
Tomato-Garlic Rice
Curried Jasmine Rice
Yellow Rice with Peas
Vegetable Biryani
South-African Chicken Biryani
Aloo Paratha
My Basic Naan Recipe

Chapter 8: Relishes and Accompaniments
Peanut Chutney
Spicy Peanut Sauce
Green Chiles in Vinegar
Instant Punjabi-Style Pickle
Gingery Salad Dressing
Ginger Lassi
Nepalese Cinnamon Tea
Saffron Tea
Red Curry Paste
Thai-Style Penang Chili Paste
My Curry Powder
My Mustard Spice Mix
My Garam Masala
Nineteenth-Century British Curry Powder
An Indian Salt Mixture
Curry Sauce

If you're interested in the history of The Curry Trail, or if you simply love curries and/or kebabs then I would very highly recommend this book!

Chickpea, Potato, and Cabbage Curry
Adapted from From Curries to Kebabs
Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4-6

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 wiri-wiri peppers, 1/8 of a congo pepper 
(scotch bonnet, habanero), without seeds, or 3 bird's-eye chiles, chopped*
4 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon hot curry powder
1 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds (directions follow)*
3 medium potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
salt and pepper, to taste
4-1/2 cups green cabbage, its leaves cut into 1/2" squares (directions follow)*

*Notes: I didn't have any wiri-wiri peppers or habanero peppers so I used two serrano peppers. I could've used my dried red bird's eye chiles, but the point is to use what you have and I had two fresh serrano peppers that needed using up, so I used those. Madhur's notes about cutting the cabbage are as follows: halve the cabbage, put it flat-side down, and then cut it, lengthwise, into1/2-inch wide strips. Then cut the strips, crosswise, into 1/2-inch squares. To roast and grind the cumin seeds: Put a few tablespoons of seeds in a small cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high flame. Stir and roast for a few minutes or until the seeds area few shades darker and smell roasted. Then grind in a clean coffee grinder or another spice grinder. I used a mortar and pestle. What is not needed immediately may be stored in a tightly lidded jar and saved for later use.

Soak the chickpeas overnight in 5 cups of water. Drain the next day, put in a pan, add 5 cups of fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook very gently for 1 to 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are very tender. If the water in the pan threatens to dry out, add more boiling water. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid into a measuring jug and add enough water to make 2-1/2 cups.

Put the onion, garlic, peppers, and 4 tablespoons of water into a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the oil into a heavy, preferably nonstick, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. Put in the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes, removing the lid to stir frequently. Add the curry powder and roasted cumin. Stir once and put in the chickpeas, potatoes, salt and pepper, and the mixture of chickpea-cooking liquid and water. Bring to a boil, cover; reduce the heat, and cook gently, stirring now and then, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the cabbage and a further 1 cup of water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cabbage has just softened. Taste and make additions to the flavor base if necessary and serve.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Good Old Fashioned Pimento Cheese

In the south, pimento cheese is king. It's a dish that's been around for ages and no one ever tires of it. In fact, everyone and their mama has a recipe with their own secret cheeses and/or seasonings and it's quite likely that you'll eat a different version everywhere you go. Southerners eat pimento cheese out of an old recycled Cool Whip container on the back porch or served on the finest china in the finest of restaurants. It's versatile like that. A beloved and timeless classic.

That being said, people are awfully picky about their pimento cheese. If you use a different cheese than mama did, if the cheese ratio is off, if there are too many or too few pimientos, if the seasoning is off, but more than anything else, if you don't use a good mayonnaise, like Duke's or Hellman's, then you'll likely get snubbed.

I chose Ruth Reichl's recipe. Now, some of you may be wondering how someone from New York knows anything about pimento cheese. Well, it turns out that Ruth got her recipe from a southerner and it was spot on, even mentioning the use of Hellman's or Duke's.

This recipe works nicely. It's a classic pimento cheese, one that I think almost anyone would like. Make sure you use good cheese and grate it yourself. You'll get kicked to the curb if you use that pre-grated cheese. In my opinion, you need a good shake of cayenne, as well as Lawry's, and a little garlic powder. 

Serve the pimento cheese with crackers, pretzels (hard or soft), and celery, or make pimento cheese sandwiches. In recent years, pimento cheese has enjoyed fame served on top burgers with pretzel buns. You will see this delight of a burger in both casual and fine dining establishments all over the south.

Make yourself a batch and you'll see. Before long you'll be putting in on everything!

Good Old Fashioned Pimento Cheese
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes about 3 cups

1/2 pound extra sharp Vermont white cheddar
1/2 pound extra sharp New York orange cheddar
1 (7-ounce) jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped*
2/3 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste*
Lawry's, to taste*

Note: In my opinion, this recipe is heavy on the pimento. I used a 4 ounce container of diced pimientos. I do believe that 7 ounces would be way too pimento heavy, tipping the balance.

Finely grate cheeses into a large bowl. With a fork, stir in pimientos, salt to taste, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder and Lawry's (if using). Stir in mayo, mashing mixture until fairly smooth. (It should be flecked with small pieces of pimiento.) Scrape into a small bowl or jar and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Bring cheese to room temperature before serving. Serve with crackers or celery sticks, or use as a filling for finger sandwiches. Pimento cheese can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 4 days. 

Monthly Food Trend Challenge @ IHCC: Grandparent Food!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Giada's Crispy Sausage Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Lemon-Basil Crema

I've been living La Dolce Vita for the past four days. School was canceled due to illness, and no one in my household was sick, so we had a lovely four days off. Let me tell was bliss. I read two cookbooks, cooked several dishes every day, and got caught up on all kinds of TV. I'm hoping the much-needed rest was good for my immune system.

I also received a shipment from Misfits Market, a company that sources misfit organic produce and ships it directly to your home. Some people have strong feelings about companies like Misfits because they feel as though this produce would otherwise go to food banks. Most likely, there is some truth to that, but in my community and many others, we don't have access to a good variety of organic produce or foods. So, I consider it a total win because otherwise we would be forced to eat conventional produce and/or drive 30-40 one-way to obtain it.

So far I'm really enjoying everything I've received from Misfits Market. I have received some things with bruises or soft spots, but I enjoy having the chance to use up this produce. Food waste has become way too prevalent in America. What I love about is Misfits is that each week they give you a list of produce to choose from and you can actually choose what you get! Then there's the add ons, like these organic Medjool dates. I have a hard time finding Medjool dates in my market, let alone organic. So, if you're like me and you don't have access to good organic produce and goods, then you may want to give this company a try.

For this week's theme, La Dolce Vita, I wanted to make a dish that was both sweet and savory, that was on the healthy side, without added sugars. I researched stuffed dates and found that I had all the ingredients on hand to make Giada's Crispy Sausage Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Lemon-Basil Crema.

Giada says she serves these stuffed dates in her restaurant and they are her number one selling appetizer. I can believe it! These are so seductive: chewy and sweet dates wrapped in crispy and salty bacon stuffed with savory and spicy sausage. Then you have the fresh silky addition of the lemon-basil crema and it's like a party in your mouth. One bite and you simply have to have another and another. I'm convinced no one could eat just one!

If you're looking to satisfy your sweet and savory tooth, these are for you. They are absolutely incredible!

Crispy Sausage Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with 
Lemon-Basil Crema
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 12

For the Lemon-Basil Crema:
2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon mascarpone, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt, to taste

For the Dates:
12 Medjool dates
2 links hot sausage, casings removed
6 slices bacon (about 4 ounces), cut crosswise in half

For the crema: Whisk together the sour cream, mascarpone, lemon zest, lemon juice, basil, and salt. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors marry.

For the dates: Preheat the oven to 400F. Make a small lengthwise slit down the center of each date. Remove the pits and open the dates slightly; make sure they stay intact. Stuff each date with 1 teaspoon of the sausage. Close the dates up and around the sausage (they won't close completely) leaving some of the sausage exposed. Wrap each date in a piece of bacon and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes. Flip the dates, and bake until the bacon is crisp another 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm, with the crema on the side.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Madhur Jaffrey's South African Natal Red Kidney Bean Curry

Let the mustard seeds start popping! Last weekend I traded in some books at Half Price Bookstore, and it was must have been my lucky day, because I found a copy of Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs Recipes From The Indian Spice Trial from 2003. It was a massive score because I didn't even know this book existed and let me tell you, it is FULL of the most delicious and comforting curries, not to mention some delectable looking kebabs, and everyone loves a kebab.

There is sure to be one curry after another here on Stirring the Pot this winter. A quick look through the cookbook had me making a list of specialty ingredients my store doesn't carry.  Plus I needed to stock up on some necessary spices. Sometimes Amazon is a necessary evil and I reluctantly placed an order for some dried red hot chiles, dried curry leaves, cumin, hot curry powder, and some cumin seeds. A few days later I had all the necessary ingredients on hand to make several dishes in this book.

I set about by soaking my red kidney beans and adding baking soda to them, which was a trick I learned from Yotam Ottolenghi. The baking soda tenderizes the beans. The next day I set about cooking the beans so they would be ready the following day when it was time to make the curry. The baking soda trick worked because my beans only needed about half the cooking time suggested, around an hour. I saved my bean cooking liquid just in case. I was glad I did.

The next day I was making a delicious and comforting bean curry in under a half-hour.  I set about making the tomato mixture, adding all the fragrant spices and chiles, testing and tasting the mixture along the way. While taste testing, I found that while delicious, I wanted and craved more garlic, green chile, dried red chile, ginger. So I doubled all those ingredients.

The result was an extremely spicy, fragrant, flavorful, and comforting vegan curry that was an absolute dream over rice. I highly recommend this recipe. Again, it is perfect for people on all diets, healthy and nutritious, plus also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.

I can already tell this Madhur Jaffrey cookbook is going to be one of my all-time faves. We've cooked with 19 chefs at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I can honestly say that Madhur's recipes have been the most reliable and are always a hit. I've yet to cook one that wasn't remarkable.

Natal Red Kidney Bean Curry
Adapted From Curries to Kebabs
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 6

1-1/2 cup dried kidney beans
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 whole dried hot red chiles
1/2 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
a generous pinch of ground asafetida*
10 to 15 fresh curry leaves, if available*
3 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound), grated on the coarsest part of a grater
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 2 fresh hot green chiles, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon peeled fresh ginger, grated to a pulp
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste

Note: I used dried curry leaves because it was all I could get my hands on. I feel as though they worked fine. I did remove them prior to eating. Ground thyme can be substituted for ground asafetida. I have done it numerous times. I added double the garlic and ginger listed above for additional flavor and also for their immune support. The original recipe did not mention the bean cooking liquid, but I saved mine and added about a cup to the curry. I feel as though you would want to do the same as the tomato mixture isn't enough to create a comforting base without it.

Cover the beans generously in water, add the baking soda (helps to tenderize them), and leave to soak overnight. Drain the next day, put in a medium-large pan, add 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Partially cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook gently for 2-2-1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. You will notice that you should have about a cup of bean cooking liquid leftover. Save this and use this later on when you add the tomato mixture.

Meanwhile, pour the oil into a medium pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the red chiles, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and asafetida. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves, and tomatoes. Stir once, then add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, green chiles, garlic, ginger, sugar, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

When the beans are tender, pour the spiced tomato mixture into the pan with the beans and the remaining bean liquid. Note: If you have over a cup or so of bean cooking liquid you may wish to strain some. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, on very low heat, for 20-25 minutes.