Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kashmiri Lamb Curry or Aab Gosht

A hiatus does wonders for the mind. It's even better for my taste buds. The past few weeks have been a blur, but one item stands out, like the light that blinds you. Makes you close your eyes and focus. A few of my trusty experimenters have stated their difficulty in finding past recipe posts. I guess they havent noticed the header at the top of the page, loudly proclaiming itself---RECIPE COLLECTIONS.. Folks, this is my version of a recipe index. All that I have labored to create has been itemized and posted. So now all of you know where to go. Jen, ChunChun, Christine... All it takes is a click!!!

The season starts. And by that I mean the cooking one, not the seasonal kind. Turkey day will be here soon enough. But before the turkey is bronzed, my first visitor is my daughter. And with her arrival comes a food request list longer than my arm!!! Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled to cook for her. To satisfy all her food fancies. Happy to have her back at our table. And so the season of goodwill and good food begins. 

Request no#1 is any kind of mutton or goat meat. It's hardfor me to say goat meat as I have called it mutton all my life. Traditionally, mutton is aged lamb. So a conundrum it is... Tomaato/tomato. Let's leave it at mutton for her sake. I schlep to a recently discovered butcher in Queens to buy a ton of meat. This butcher's mutton has the taste of meat from home aka Bombay. It's a ride out there, but well worth the effort as the mutton cooks up bone tender. I have Keith Louis to thank for this meaty discovery!! Then I race home to cook for her. The curry is supposed to be tomorrow's dinner, but an impending snowstorm brings her home earlier.

Aab Gosht is a Kashmiri delicacy. The meat is cooked along with chana dal, mint and spices till it falls off the bone. The pressure cooker does its job quite adequately. I mash the chana into the gravy to thicken it. Some coconut milk and lemon juice to finish and I have a creamy mutton curry Shauna will love.

Serves 4-6

2 pounds Lamb stew or cubed Goat meat 
1 cup Chana Dal
2 Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon grated Ginger
3 tablespoons Coriander Chili chutney OR 1 cup Coriander and 3 Green chilies ground              into a paste
20 Mint leaves
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 2"Cinnamon stick
6 Cloves
10 Peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon Cardamom powder
1 cup Coconut Milk
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Fried Onions and Mint Laeves to garnish

Wash meat and drain well.

Soak chana dal for 4-6 hours. OR place dal in a saucepan cover with water and bring to a boil. Take off the fire and let dal sit for 1 hour.

Cut onion into small dice.

Roughly chop mint leaves.

Place meat, ginger, garlic paste, onions, mint, coriander chilie paste or chutney, salt and oil in a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed saucepan.

Cover with water and bring to a boil. Pressure cook meat for 16 minutes. If you are cooking the meat stovetop, cover meat with a lid, lower flame and let meat cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or till done. Check water level and add more if needed.

Once the pressure cooker has cooled, open lid and place meat on high flame and let the gravy thicken. It should take 15 minutes or so.

Now add coconut milk and lime juice and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes more.

Place cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder and pulse till they are a fine powder. Add cardamon powder to masala and pulse a few times to incorporate. 

Sprinkle this masala over mutton and mix in.

Serve mutton garnished with fried onions and mint leaves.

I wait eagerly for my baby to come home. Traffic confounds her, prolonging the journey. Grey clouds fill the skies outside. But my kitchen shines bright, suffused with the joy and anticipation of our family meal.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Roasted Blistered Carrots

These carrots are addictive. They come of the oven, browned and blistered, spicy and  crisp-tender. More like a large French fry. And how we love them. I am considering them as an appetizer after watching the family pick away at a plateful. You might've seen them as a side with roast chicken in another blog post. I find they go equally well with lamb or fish.

I do like to make them with small white and orange carrots from the farmers market.  They come in adorable twisty shapes, not the usual straight and narrow. I have a bee in my bonnet about buying carrots with their tops intact. The prepackaged, scrubbed clean little itty bitty ones are not quite the carrot I have in mind. This is the carrot that's been in the ground of late, the green frilly tops calling out..buy me, I'm fresh!! Thankfully, I and only I have to live with this pet peeve! 

I halve the fatter ones, leaving the slim ones intact. I use a limited spice palate as I want the carrot flavor to be the dominant one. Coriander and fennel seeds give the carrots a nippy flavor without heat. Carrots get a quick coating of spices and oil. A really hot oven turns these little ones into brown blistered babies!!!

Serves 4

8-10 Carrots
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1 tablespoon Fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Olive oil

Heat oven to 400F.

Wash and scrub carrots well. 

Cut carrots in half lengthwise. 

Blitz coriander seeds and fennel in a coffee grinder till they are coarsely ground.

Mix seeds, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl.

Line a sheetpan with nonstick aluminum foil.

Drop carrots into spice mixture and stir so all carrots are well coated with spices.

Arrange carrots on foil and put in the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, checking occasionally at the end. Once the carrots are easily pierced with a knife, remove from oven and serve.

Carrots emerge with blistered skins and crispy tips. The spice coating has turned golden brown, giving the carrots a nice crunch. Roasting allows their natural sweetness to come through. I watch as the plateful of heaped carrots steadily disappears. This vegetable has gone from being an also-ran, to a rock star!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ball Curry

There is kofta curry and then there is Pam's ball curry. A difference? It's not just semantics! It's a question of regional spices, Goan flavor and importantly, following stalwart advice of her mother-in-law! So I do the same. The recipe, written on a scrap of paper years ago, now encased in a protective plastic sleeve, sits in a bulging binder. Hastily written, I almost always have to decode the scrawl. Even as I read I can hear the Mini's voice telling me how much coriander to use. How I must add Bassein vinegar for that authentic taste. How the masala should be ground fine. Who is this voice of authority you ask? She was ma in law's gem in the kitchen. Minnie Mai is the culinary enchantress, who turned out potato chops, burnt curry, rechaad fish, chili fry....I could go on and on with this litany of Goan goodness, for thirty years in Pam's Bombay kitchen.. She also makes authentic Chinese, mouthwatering sev poori and the best caramel custard. Let me not forget her legendary chapattis at breakfast. I give much deserved credit to my mother-in -law for teaching Minnie the art of homestyle Goan food. Now retired, she now spends her days cooking at leisure for her family.

With Mini's voice in my ear I gather provisions for ball curry. Some beef, cilantro, chilies, coconut and onions. All these within easy reach in my kitchen. Alas, I have no Bassein vinegar, having put my bottle to good use. I do have some malt vinegar, which I am told by Pam, will work adequately. There is something therapeutic for me, in making meat balls. I love the squish of meat between my fingers. The aroma that arises is intoxicating. When I grind fresh spices, I can hear Mini telling me to make sure the masala should be one smooth paste. That I should fry the balls gently in a little oil. That I should always taste the gravy before eating.

Serves 4

Green Masala
1 cup Cilantro
2-3 Green Chiles
1/2 cup grated fresh Coconut
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Poppy seeds
1" piece Cinammon
3 Cloves
1 large coin Ginger
4-5 Garlic cloves
1 pound ground Beef
1/2 cup fresh Breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Malt Vinegar
1 large Onion
4-5 Curry Leaves
3-4 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 cup Water or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Put green masala ingredients into blender and grind till smooth. Add water, a little at a time as needed. Scrape masala out of blender and rinse blender out with water. Save water to add to the gravy.

Divide masala in half.

Break up the beef into a bowl.

Add half portion of masala to beef.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs, salt and malt vinegar over beef.

Squish beef with your hands so everything is well mixed and it takes on a greenish patina.

Roll beef into smooth balls and keep aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil, preferably in a nonstick saucepan. 

Add balls to hot oil and cook till light brown and crusty. They do not have to cook all the way through. Drain onto paper and keep aside.

Peel and cut onion into small dice.

Heat 2-3 tablespoon of canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

Splutter curry leaves in hot oil.

Scatter onions over oil and sauté till translucent for a few minutes. They should not brown.

Add remaining half of masala into oil and sauté constantly for a few minutes. 

Slowly add water from the blender as well as the 1/2 cup portion to masala to make gravy. Salt and bring to boil.

Drop balls into bubbling gravy, cover and let balls cook for 7-8 minutes.

Remove lid, raise flame to high and let gravy cook down till thick.

Serve ball curry with rice or chapattis. 

 A recipe from the past is forever enshrined in my collection. To know that we eat what our grandparents did, is always a connection forged. Often Pam regales me with her mother in law's culinary stories. She has taught me well. With every bite we go back to that happy place. Voices from the past encourage me walk this path again and again. I do, with joy in my heart and my treasured recipe binder in hand.