Archive for the ‘Subcontinent’ Category

For all I know, it’s ‘palak pakora.’ Pakora was suggested by the letter home to parents as a buffet food for the school Eid party. This surprised me, as I think of parkora as Hindu, but the chick pea fritter extends throughout the subcontinent, and I believe that everyone eats them. Ashamedly, I have no idea what ingredients might make a pakora more typical of Bangladesh or of Pakistan rather than Tamil-Nadu, so I made them as I always do. I expect that vegetarian pakora was suggested by the school because it neatly skips the issue of halal, which might vex the non-Muslim parents, and thereafter by extension the Muslim parents, too.

Pakoras are very quick and simple. For these I sifted besan (gram, chick pea) flour with a little ground cumin and cardamon, pinches of salt at bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). I then made a paste with water, and stirred in chopped spinach, cilantro, diced red onion and green chili (not much, these were for the kiddies). I promptly deep-fried them by the tablespoon-full in sunflower oil and drained them on towel. My son dips them in yogurt. I like them with lime pickle in oil.

Otherwise, I’ve been absorbed in the markets these past weeks, watching the Fall of the Empire. I buy the FT every morning and it’s out-of-date by lunch. I hang on Robert Peston’s every word, and am consequently tickled to anticipate every calamity by twelve hours. Months ago I found rights issues fascinating (for all the good it did those banks…), but they look ho-hum these days, with half the high street evaporating and Iceland slipping beneath the North Atlantic in a hiss of leverage. I wonder if I’m too old to learn Mandarin…

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This is my version of saag paneer (or palak paneer), an quick Indian side of greens with fresh cheese. The version one reconstitutes from powder in a pouch tends to be more pablum-like. When I make it at home I like mine chunky, with fried paneer and the tang of a tomato sauce. This specimen is a saute of onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, fenugreek (methi) seed, and spinach leaves to which chopped canned tomatoes have been added toward the end. Very simple, quick to do, and not at all hot, so a hit with small children. The onion and fenugreek make it seem quite sweet, actually.

Be warned that paneer is a vengeful dairy product. It hath wrath. Sweetly toasted cubes of cheese come at the price of hot oil spitting about the kitchen and the cook. For minimal spitting, buy a well-pressed block of paneer and fry the whole thing over medium heat on its two significant sides. The fried slab of paneer may be subsequently chopped, producing on each cube two nicely browned sides of six, all for minimal fuss and violence. Frying individual cubes of paneer is maddness: a volley of hot oil shrapnel will pepper your hairy forearms and set them on fire. And once that spreads to your eyebrows your evening is pretty much ruined.

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I find that as one drives further toward central Asia raw onion is treated with more respect. Sweet and crunchy with a little sting in the tail, this is a condiment or a salad, depending on one’s inclination.

There are many ways to draw the sulfur out of a raw onion. Choosing a low-sulfur variety, like vidalia or walla walla is one. Time spent in the refrigerator after slicing is another (a good tip for your nachos americanos, too). Ice water is good, as are acids, if these treatments do not compromise the recipe.

But I would never be too aggressive about removing the sulfur. After all, raw onion, with its crunchy balance of bite and sweet, is the raison d’etre, n’est pas? If I do not want raw onion, I make a cucumber raita instead. That said, be warned that churri is not first-date food.

So, what is churri? Well, this churri is tame-enough slices of onion sitting in a bath of yogurt and buttermilk (a little acidic, yes?). The green flavours come from a puree of mint, coriander, ginger and a little chili, plus some ground cumin for warmth. It makes a more forceful accompaniment to the more comforting and meaty rogan josh.

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This is arguably the most common curry-house curry in the UK. It comes in a jar in any supermarket these days. Of course, the jar is obscene. For a much-truncated wazwan, we who cook make our own at home.

My rogan josh is lamb in a warmly spiced reduction of yogurt. I have stewed chunks of lamb leg for hours in a fatty, fatty yogurt, with cloves, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, and a not-too-smoky paprika standing-in for Kashmiri chilies. The cardamon, saffron, and coriander leaf have entered only at the very end, because I feel that they are the delicate ones. I use asofoetida in lieu of allium (alliums? allia? alliarum? Sigh. Amo, amas, amat…). I do not believe in tomato in my rogan josh, even though I expect tomatoes grow well enough in Jammu, because I have a perfect notion of a perfectly creamy north (of India? of England? of Birmingham?). My rogan josh is the anti-curry: curry without appreciable heat.

No recipe here. Screw you, scrapers. Anybody who’s curious can ask about for the details in comments. I think that sploggers ignore comments.

What do I serve with my curry? With this curry, I serve churri. What is churri? Well, I shall show you next week, I think.

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