Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happiness on a plate

If I had to select one cuisine that I absolutely love, it would be Indian. While reading SFist yesterday, I saw that I was not alone in my love. (And yes, I have been to Taste of the Himalayas -- last summer on a date. I keep meaning to go back.) As I wrote previously, in recent years I had stopped cooking Indian food and instead, chose to go out. Right now I can't really afford to go out so I'm back to cooking. And I love cooking things that will yield enough to put away containers in the freezer for that day that I don't feel like cooking. (Or that I have enough to give some to my aunts, neither of whom really cooks, as I did in this case. Silly generation-skipping culinary gene.) This time I got ambitious and made two main dishes.

Vindaloo, Eggplant-Tomato Curry, and Carmelized Basmati Rice

I had originally planned on cooking this on Sunday but the meat for the vindaloo had to marinate. By the time the minimum time for this had passed, it was starting to get a bit late so I decided to let it marinate further. In fact I often let it marinate overnight when I make this particular dish.

An Everyday Vindaloo
from Curries Without Worries

I used a small pork roast (around 3 pounds) for this dish. The best part? There was a small bone and some pieces that were a bit too fatty to go into the dish. So I saved all that stuff up in a freezer bag for future seasoning usage.

I have read that this dish is traditionally made with pork but I have also made it with lamb in the past. Also, it came to India via Portugal. As with the Chicken Curry recipe, I find it helpful to measure everything before I start cooking.

Left: Ingredients waiting to be pureed. Right: Spice mixtures.

2-1/2 pounds boneless pork
6 tablespoons vinegar
2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
4 dry hot peppers
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
2-inch cinnamon stick, coarsely crushed
6 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 hot green peppers
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups water

1. Marinate the meat in 2 tablespoons of vinegar for 4 yours in the refrigerator.

2. Blend the onions, ginger, garlic, coriander, hot peppers, cumin, and cinnamon with the remaining vinegar to make a paste. You may have to add a tablespoon or two of water to facilitate blending.

3. When ready to cook, heat the oil in a 6-quart saucepan on high heat. Add the puree, and reduce the heat to medium high. Fry briskly for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the turmeric, ground black pepper, meat, and the marinade. Fry well for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn the meat. Stir briskly, constantly.

5. Add the green peppers, salt, sugar, cloves, and 2 cups of water. Stir, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 45 minutes, until the gravy thickens and the meat is completely tender.

6. Serve hot.


Eggplant-Tomato Curry

This is a little tricky because I ended up combining elements from a couple of different recipes but I'll give it a try. Although I have given measurements, many are just estimates. Close, but estimates nonetheless. Also if you like extra spicy, one of the recipes included adding green peppers at step 5. I didn't because I figured that I had enough extra-spiciness going on my plate with the vindaloo.

1 eggplant, about 1-1/2 pounds, cut into wedges 1-1/2 - 2 inches long
3/4 lb. ripe tomatoes (I estimated and used three medium tomatoes on the vine)
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
About 1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Left: Eggplant draining. Right: Seed mixture and spice mixture.

1. Put the eggplant pieces in a colander, sprinkle them with salt and leave them for 30 minutes to allow any bitter juices to run out. Rinse, squeeze out any excess water, then pat dry with paper towels.

2. Score a cross in the top of each tomato and plunge into boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and peel away from the cross. Roughly chop the tomatoes, discarding the cores and seeds and reserving any juices.

3. Puree the ginger and garlic with a third of the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

4. Heat oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed frying pan, and when hot, add as many eggplant pieces as you can fit in a single layer. Cook over medium heat until brown on both sides, then transfer to paper towels so that the excess oil can drain off. Add more oil to the pan as needed and cook the rest of the eggplant in batches. (That's how I did it. One of the recipes suggests using a colander to let it drain.)

5. Reheat the oil that's left in the pan and add the fennel seeds and the cumin seeds. Cover and allow to pop for a few seconds. Add the tomato and ginger mixture and the remaining ingredients, except the eggplant. Cook, stirring regularly for 5-6 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and fairly smooth. Carefully add the cooked eggplant so that the pieces stay whole, cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.


Carmelized Basmati Rice
from Best-Ever Curry Cookbook

Jill, you start drooling, I own the paperback edition of this book that is priced substantially less. They just didn't have an image of the cover on the paperback edition.

This is the real reason why I turned the other pot of rice into rice pudding. I wanted to give this recipe a try to use as a side dish instead.

1 cup basmati rice
3 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tsp granulated sugar
4 - 5 green cardamom pods, bruised
1 in piece cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 bay leaf, crumpled
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups hot water

1. Put the basmati rice in a colander and leave to drain.

2. In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the granulated sugar and wait until it is carmelized.

3. Reduce the heat to low and add the spices and bay leaf. Let sizzle for about 15 - 20 seconds, then add the rice and salt. Fry gently, stirring, for about 2 - 3 minutes.

4. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Let it boil steadily for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pan and cook for 8 minutes.

5. Remove the rice from the heat and let stand for 6-8 minutes. Gently fluff up the rice with a fork and transfer to a warmed dish to serve.

The reason why I used cardamom in the rice pudding was because I was trying to imitate the flavor of kheer -- a perfect dessert to follow this meal.

As I wrapped up the cooking, I ventured into the living room to discover this sight.

I think I am going to have to relinquish this blanket to Natasha.

And Boris has a way of taking over my spot the minute I leave the room.

They were apparently waiting for the sound of a can opening.

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