Monday, February 26, 2007

Prawn Curry

My failsafe Prawn Curry recipe:

Step 1:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions
1 stick of cinnamon
4 cloves
3 cardamom pods
6 peppercorns

Chop onions finely and braise in oil together with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns (I like to grind up all the spices in a mortar and pestle, with the exception of the cinnamon stick - you can pick out the cinnamon stick at the end). Braise on low heat until onions are golden brown.

Step 2:
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 to 3 serrano or thai chilies (seeds removed and chopped finely)
28 fl oz can of whole tomatoes

Add garlic, chilies, and all remaining spices to make a paste with the onions. Mash/cut up tomatoes and add to spice mixture. Simmer on med/low heat until tomatoes break up and are reduced.

Step 3:
2 cups yogurt (or substitute coconut milk, if necessary)
1 lb prawns (peeled and deveined)

Once tomatoes have reduced, add yogurt a bit at a time to avoid curdling. Simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes and then add prawns. (The prawns only need a couple of minutes to cook through)

Step 4:
Basmati rice
Chopped cilantro and green onions

Serve the curry over basmati rice and garnish with plenty of chopped cilantro and green onions.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Last week's salad recipe (with revisions and comments by me)

Salad of shaved raw rhubarb, blood oranges, beetroot
and fiore di latte

We actually used only two of the above ingredients.

By Skye Gyngell

About whom the Independent says: 'She has fed Madonna, swapped recipes with Nigella, worked alongside some of the best chefs in town; and was recently seen in the glossy pages of Vogue elegantly draped in a £4,500, full-length, shimmering red Neil Cunningham zibeline dress, whipping up a little flambé number in her kitchen. Yet Skye Gyngell, 41, is still wondering what all the fuss is about. "I'm not that special," she says. "I'm not a ground-breaking genius. I'm not Alain Ducasse or Heston Blumenthal. I'm just someone who likes to cook."'

She's so humble.

Published: 28 January 2007
Can't contest that.

Serves 4
Or five, in our case.

4 small English beetroots
Or four gigantic Canadian ones.

Enough water to cover the beetroot
See previous entry for pictures!

Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp mild extra-virgin olive oil (such as Ligurian)
Yes, we have a full range of olive oils at our disposal.

1 tbsp traditional balsamic vinegar
As opposed to modern balsamic vinegar?

4 balls of fiore di latte (cow's milk mozzarella)
Now that's a really pretentious way to refer to mozzarella.
But anyway, we couldn't have it even if we wanted to, and so went for creamy goat's cheese instead, which was delicious, and really made the salad perfect.

1 tbsp crème fraîche

2 blood oranges
Yes, we got that right! Except that we used four.

1 fennel bulb
That was fun.

Half a stem of winter rhubarb
Not precisely.

A handful of winter purslane, if not, lamb's lettuce
We used butter lettuce instead, but I suppose you could use any mixed greens or soft lettuce.

The seeds of half a pomegranate
That was lots of fun too.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, place the beetroot in and cook until tender when you pierce it with a sharp knife. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin (it will come off very easily). Place in a bowl and season. Drizzle over the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. If the beetroot is big, cut into bite-sized pieces.

If the beetroot is gigantic, slice it on the mandolin and then dig out the remnants with a fork.

In a separate bowl, tear the mozzarella balls in half with your fingers. Spoon the crème fraîche over the pieces and toss together gently.

We may not have used the separate bowl. Or the mozzarella. Or the crème fraîche. But we did sort of slice the goat cheese!

Using a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the blood oranges and slice into rounds about an eighth of an inch thick (3mm). Toss with the beetroot.

Ooh, we out-pretentioused Skye here, by supreming our blood oranges instead of slicing them.

Slice the fennel as finely as possible lengthwise and cut the rhubarb into fine shards. Season, add a little olive oil and combine with the purslane.

Well, we mandolinned the fennel, so that was as finely as possible. But there was no rhubarb or purslane.

To assemble, divide the beetroot and orange among four plates. Lay a little mozzarella on top of each. Distribute the fennel, rhubarb and purslane among them, finish off with some more mozzarella and scatter the pomegranate seeds around. Serve immediately as the beetroot has a tendency to bleed.

Well, what we did instead was put everything in one bowl. That included the fennel, the beets, the butter lettuce, the blood oranges, the goat cheese and the pomegranate seeds. And then we made a quick dressing of white wine vinegar (I think), blood orange juice and oil. I thought the balsamic on this would be weird, but maybe it works with the fiore di latte. Anyway, it all went wonderfully, and was very delicious. I would recommend our version any day.

p.s. Does anyone know what a zibeline dress is?

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

We chopped, we sliced, we conquered

So this entry depicts not this past Wednesday (which was Valentine's, of course — happy belated Valentine's everyone!), but the prior Wednesday, which was colourful and quite photogenic. And oddly violent, foodwise. We did something novel and cooked at Meg's for the first time (well, the first time for We Dine, anyway) and went in search of all the chopping power she had at her disposal. Which was plenty, we were to discover.

First, Michelle and Erin chopped various fruits and veg in the usual manner.

We made a salad I had discovered in the British newspaper the Independent (when looking for something else). It was a little impossibly posh, and involved mysterious ingredients such as purslane (though if we didn't have purslane we could've substituted lamb's lettuce, of course). Recipe to follow in a later entry. But the salad called for many lovely red ingredients, the handling of which which turned everyone's hands quite bloody.

The first violent fruit: blood oranges.

We learned that peeling and sectioning oranges by cutting into the segments is actually a cooking technique that has a name: supreming. That's right, you can supreme something.

Then we boiled beets for the salad (which took ages because they were fairly large) and fished them out of the pot and peeled them. And then we mandolinned them! More chopping power. We got to use Meg's (relatively) new mandolin to slice them quite thinly. That part was fun but messy.

Fennel was another salad ingredient we mandolinned:

And the finished salad was very pretty. A photo will appear alongside the recipe in a later entry.

Michelle made a guacamole, which she clearly enjoyed.

And Meg made another kind of mole. Two moles in one meal! Meg's was a chocolate mole sauce over chicken thighs, with a green rice dish — one of her favourites, apparently. I'll have to let Meg explain it, ingredients and recipe, as I really don't know much about it, I've realized, except that it tasted delicious. Alisha read the ingredient list (from the jar) and was fairly disturbed. Something about crackers. And various artificial colourings.

And all these flavours and dishes came together in the finished meal!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

An amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany — good subtitle, eh?

Just heard about this book yesterday from one of my clients (with whom I'm about to embark on a cookbook project — how topical!). So, the author, Bill Buford, apparently a fiction editor at the New Yorker (and an ambitious but sometimes disastrous home cook), gives up his day job and eventually gets a book contract to fulfil his titular adventcha - that of becoming a kitchen slave in Babbo, Mario Batali's New York restaurant. Buford starts out kind of star-struck, and is eventually burnt (literally), beaten, cowed — how does he survive? Well, here's an excerpt from the New York Review of Books:

"an increasingly obsessive nearly four-year odyssey that included stints with Batali's former teachers, indentured servitude with the crazy but gifted butcher of the subtitle and long hours learning Italian and poring over 15th-century manuscripts in an effort to find out when egg yolks replaced water in pasta fresca. Not surprisingly, along the way, he quit his day job — he had to. He started out, he says, as a "tourist," a journalist with a magazine assignment and then a book contract, who wanted to learn some basic skills and tell the tale. He does tell it, beautifully, but he is no longer a mere "author writing about the experience of the kitchen" — he is a proud "member" of the kitchen who has been forever changed."

Sounds good. Anyway, my client tells me it's fantastically written and really funny too. Check out the New York Review of Books article here, as it's very good and certainly piqued my interest.

Just one last thing — a comment on the covers. The top one is the American hardcover, and the bottom is the trade paperback available here. How do you convey heat typographically? And no use of photos on either cover. Very interesting. I quite like the top type treatment, in that you get a feeling for the idea of the burner on a stove (though technically I suppose they all use gas burners...) but that subtitle treatment isn't very good. And why did they remove 'Dante-quoting' from the subtitle? And in the bottom example they've used a very structured, geometric type (Bodoni? Didot? Filosofia?) melting away in a more organic way. Which do you prefer?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

The fabled beef-to-leaf ratio

Imagine the setting: it is two Wednesdays ago. There we were at Alisha's lovely Kits condo, fire roaring.

As it was a we dine night, we were busily engaged in making a delightful lettuce wrap meal, with a satay chicken/pasta dish as a side. We washed and froze the lettuce leaves after separating them and discarding the un-wrap-worthy ones:

Bamboo shoots and water chestnuts were chopped. Perhaps Diamond should invest in some new packaging design. They look kind of scary.

Michelle chopped carrots a little too large:

I separated the cilantro from its stems. Mm, cilantro, my favourite herb. (More on this at a later date).

Three pots simmered away - the pasta, for the satay pasta dish, the chicken that looked like fish, and the beef that would end up wrapped in the lettuce:

And this is the last known photograph of that night. The clock reads 7:32. So what happened after this? Did we have a dessert? Was there any entertainment? And what was the proper way to fill a lettuce wrap? These are all questions I answer below in cartoon form!

What's important to keep in mind when forming a lettuce wrap? Alisha informed us:

Also, we all agreed the coolth of the lettuce teamed with the warmed beef mixture was very yummy. And the hoisin sauce may play an important role. Was there any entertainment? Mais oui! We tried desperately to finish the Globe's Christmas challenge crossword. Yes, it's February. Somehow there were always ten answers left no matter how many we solved. We all learnt how to spell knife. (How topical). But we did pretty well!

And was there dessert? Well . . .

For some reason Capers was determined it was a citrus loaf, and not a lemon one. But it was very good, either way. And that was our Wednesday! Stayed tuned for this week's adventchas.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Photo inspiration and Bombay Hummous

My mission is to post the recipe for the hummous we made to hold us over while we waited for the quiche to cook a few Wednesdays ago. But first... I've recently happened upon a couple of treasure troves of delicious food photos. For your enjoyment:

Clotilde (of Chocolate & Zucchini) has a great flickr collection of enviable restaurant meals. Can we take a Wednesday Dinners field trip to Paris? Please?

And for more flickr food fun, here's a girl who documents what she eats in a flickr set named What I had for breakfast/lunch/dinner. I envy her ability to make the most ordinary food look irresistible.

Now onto hummous. I first tried this variation last summer, whipped it up on a Sunday morning to take down to the beach. We ate it with carrot sticks, burgers and beer – perfect. It looks like it has an unheard of number of ingredients for hummous, but it's still really easy and totally worth it. Plus, once you've tried it out you can make it something in this spirit with fewer or different ingredients (as we did recently at Laura's, since we were without recipe and I only seemed to remember about half of it).

Bombay Hummous
(from my bible, the Rebar cookbook)
1/4 cup canola oil
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 (19 oz) can of chick peas
1/4 cup of cashews, roasted
juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground corriander
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
pinch tumeric
pinch cinnamon
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped mint

1. Gently heat the oil and ginger in a small saucepan. Let the ginger sizzle, but not brown. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, including the ginger and oil, and pulse to blend until it's the texture you like. Season to taste.

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