Archive for the ‘Currries’ Category

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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In the south of India it is customary to pour a soup called a rasam over your rice toward the end of a large meal. The Tamil community in India resides largely in the very south and they are great drinkers of these soups, which are usually hot and spicy and made slightly tart with tamarind, tomato, lemon, or lime. Not all rasams are made thick, but when they are it is usually through the very gentle disentegration of toor dal, red lentil. Unlike lentils of other hues, red lentils fall apart entirely in tens of minutes of cooking, giving the soup a consistency something between that of broth and that of curry. Like most common soups, a family’s rasam will be some hybrid of a chefs specialty and whatever is on hand that day. Variations can be broad; in a curious cross-cultural adventure, rasam managed to spawn the not-very-similar English mulligatawny soup.

Anyone familiar with the cuisine of India knows that when it comes to spices the cook is spoilt for choice. The rasam that I have choosen to make features three distinct flavourings that are very common to cooking in the south. The first is asafoetida, a plant resin with a yellow colour and (when used sparingly) a sulfurous odor similar to allium. (Be warned that while asafoetida is usually sold ground with rice flour it can be mixed with wheat flour instead, so if it matters, read your labels and choose your brands.) The second spice is slightly bitter brown mustard seed, which is great fun: rather than grinding them, one heats them in a little oil until the seeds go pop, pop, pop! Finally, a handful of dried curry leaves (so hard to describe, nothing else tastes like the gentle warmth of curry leaves) go into the final seasoning. It is for the sake of the curry leaves that I go easy on the souring tamarind in this recipe, as I find that too much sourness somehow cancels-out the curry leaves. If unavailable one could substitute lemon juice for tamarind and add it off-heat at the end, but all of these flavourings can be found in an Indian grocer’s, especially if his or her custom is from the south.

This soup would be plenty tasty served the occidental way, alone in a bowl at noon. For a more traditional approach, serve over rice and perhaps a dab of melted ghee, in the company of the usual suspects: curries, chutneys, yogurts, popadums. We like it with a hard English apple cider (the hotter our meal, the sweeter our cider).

Tamil Red Lentil Soup (Rasam)

40 minutes; serves four

1 cup red lentils, washed
4 cups water
three whole cloves garlic
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
3 dried bird’s eye chilies
12 black peppercorns
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 Tbsp dried coconut
3/4 cup good canned tomatoes
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
handful of dried curry leaves (maybe 18 or so)

1. In a large saucepan place the lentils and water and heat to a boil. Skim the scum. Toss in the garlic cloves, asafoetida, and tumeric and simmer until the lentils have fallen apart, about 25 minutes.
2. In the meantime, place the chilies, peppercorns, cumin and coconut in a small heavy frying pan and toast them over low heat with stirring until the coconut turns brown. Remove to let cool.
3. Dice the tomatoes. If your tamarind is still on the stone, soak it off with some agitation (fingers are best) in a little water.
4. Once the lentils have collapsed, fish out the garlic cloves and add the tomatoes, tamarind and salt. Grind the toasted spices in a grinder or a mortar and add them, too. If the soup is too thick for you, add a little water. Too thin, simmer a little longer.
5. In that little frying pan add oil and mustard seeds and heat gently. When the seeds start to pop add the curry leaves and swirl them around for a minute to extract some of their flavour into the oil. Add this final seasoning (it’s called a tarka, by the way) to the soup. Taste for salt.

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opor.jpgOpor Ayam is a traditional dish of celebration at Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, or Lebaran as it is called on Java. Some recipes for this widespread dish include tumeric, while some do not, but without it the dish is grey in colour and less celebratory, to my eyes. Opor Ayam is not particulary hot, but it is very rich, with a balance of sweet, spicy, and sour. Very tender chicken is achieved here by simmering the pieces without first browning, simmering gently, and simmering until just done. I use only dark meat parts rather than the traditional whole jointed chicken, because that neatly eliminates the problem of dark and light meat finishing at different temperatures. It is important to skin the chicken, in order to let the spices penetrate the meat, and because too much rendered fat in the sauce makes a rich sweet curry taste quite flabby. Kaffir lime leaves add lovely floral notes over the dish, and it really is just not the same without them. They are sold frozen at Asian groceries and they keep forever that way. In Java, this curry is thickened with kemri nuts, which are hard to find here (and a tad poisonous when raw), and while macadamia nuts are a good substitute, consider them optional if you need a nut-free curry.

Accompany with a vegetable dish and white rice. Pair with water, or a Loire chenin blanc.

Opor Ayam

forty-five minutes;serves four

4 macadamia nuts (optional), diced
1 Tbsp coriander seed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp oil
4 shallots, diced
1/2 tsp tumeric
14 oz (400ml) coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp palm sugar (may substitute 1 tsp brown sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
3 lbs chicken legs and/or thighs, jointed and skinned
1 Tbsp tamarind juice (may substitute 2 tsp lemon or 1 Tbsp lime juice)

1. Grind the macadamia nuts, coriander, garlic and tumeric to a paste in a mortar.
2. In a large heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, gently sweat the shallots in the oil over medium heat, until soft.
3. Add the paste to the pot and mix it into the hot oil.
4. Add the coconut milk to the pot and stir to dissolve the spices. Add the cinnamon, lemongrass, lime leaves, sugar and salt. Carefully bring to a simmer.
5. Add the chicken and return to a simmer. Place the lid on and cook for ten minutes. Turn all the pieces and replace the lid to cook another ten. Turn the pieces again and simmer another five minutes. Check that your chicken is done, which it probably is.
6. Off heat add the tamarind juice, stir through, taste the sauce, and adjust for salt, sugar, and acid (tamarind).

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