July 23, 2008

Really Good Vegetable Curry

So I had this post all ready to go and I added the photos like I normally do, put in the captions and it all went to hell in a handbasket. And because blogspot autosaves your work for you, which is usually a good thing, all my recipe goodness was lost. I have to tell you it made me so mad I haven't even thought about a redo for a week now.

However, I felt that I should move on with life, and so I'm going to attempt the remake of my last post, however I'm sure it won't be as witty or clever and will be but a poor shadow of it's former self, but such is life when the computer eats your homework.

This first picture is a show-off because I just can't believe that I'm growing anything that lives, much less is producing tasty things I can eat. It is amazing! I want a pair of overalls and a straw hat, pronto! Actually, really I do, it's like the perfect gardening getup. Anyway, so here one of my zucchini plants doing it's thing. I love it!

Ok, so the original purpose of this post was to talk about this really awesome vegetable curry that I found from Gordon Ramsay, who I really like actually. Not the hyper-obnoxious American TV persona, but the Gordon Ramsay who you find from British sources and is a damn fine chef. So one of the mystiques of looking at him from British sources, is translating the recipes. Once we get past the obvious, like courgette=zucchini, the mystery of this recipe was an ingredient called madras curry paste, which is something I'd actually never heard of. I love when that happens! So after a little research I found out that it is a dry spice masala, mixed with a little fresh ginger, garlic and vinegar to form a paste. It's actually sold pre-fab in England, and I'm sure you could order it, but you can certainly whip up your own and stick the extra in a jar in the fridge, which is what I did.

Madras Curry Paste

Madras Curry Paste

2.5 T coriander seed
1 T cumin seed
1 t black mustard seed
1 t black peppercorns
1 t red chile flakes
1 t ground turmeric
3 garlic
1 T ginger, grated
3-4 T vinegar
Toast the coriander, cumin, mustard and peppercorns in a dry skillet until they start to release their fragrance. Be careful as they can scorch easily. Next grind the toasted spices, or grind in a mortar. If using a mortar, pound in the garlic. Add the chile flakes, turmeric, grated ginger and moisten with the vinegar until a nice paste consistency. That's all there is to it!

Now for the vegetable curry. I'll post the original, and then I'll tell you what I did. Not because I wanted to mess with it, but because I use what I have on hand, and a good method will embrace that, which it does, so experiment!

Easy Vegetable Curry

2 T oil (I used butter)
1 banana shallot, chpd (I used onion)
1 garlic, chpd (more!)
1 sm celeraic, peeled and chpd (Didn't have this :( Hard to get where I am, next year I'll grow my own!)
sea salt and bl. pepper
3 T madras curry paste
few cardamom pods
1 gr. pepper, deseeded and chpd (I used Hungarian Wax chiles from the garden)
1/2 cauliflower, cut into florets (I had some frozen cauliflower)
400g can chpd tomatoes
1/2 head broccoli, cut into florets (Ihad some nice mixed veggies, edamame, corn and red peppers and some fresh swiss chard that I used instead)
1 large courgette, chopped (Zucchini fresh from the garden)
250ml container Greek-style yogurt (I used Kefir)
chopped fresh cilantro if you want

The method is such, heat the fat and start cooking the aromatics, onions, garlic and chiles, then when they're soft, add the curry paste and cardamom. Next add the celeraic and the cauliflower since they would take the longest to cook, or whatever you're using that would take the longest. Salt and pepper- a little water if the pan is getting too hot. Next add the can of tomatoes, and the other veggies. If you're using greek-style yogurt which is very thick, add a can of water to start it to stew. Since I was using kefir, which is much thinner, I added just a little water, put a lid on the pot to capture the steam, and let it stew in it's own juice since the kefir was going to thin it out considerably. When the veggies are tender to your desired degree, on low heat, stir in the dairy and cilantro.

That's all there is too it. Very tasty!

I've noticed that Gordon Ramsay has a little how-to video of this curry circulating around, so if you want to see it, it's available. The only annoying part is that the camera-man focused mainly on his face and upper torso, but not so far out that you could see what his hands were doing- or the pot for that matter....hello, cameraman, we want to see the food! But other than that, you can get a fairly good idea of the method.


July 9, 2008

To the Farm, in dream if not reality

Hungarian Wax Peppers (rather chiles)

I've been living in suburbia and cities my whole life, with brief visits to the very rural part of Louisiana where my husband spent summers on his Uncle's farm. That hasn't stopped me from realizing that I've been bitten by the farm bug.

Maybe it happened because I love the country. Maybe it happened because the more I read about food production the more I realize that I want to have control over mine. Maybe it happened because I've always wanted to live in a zoo. I have no idea. However, I do know, that sometime in the future, I will have my farm. Until then, I will continue to learn what I can, dream what I may, and have fun with my garden.

I had this sort of surreal experience the other day. I was in Costco, and I discovered that they've created a huge walk-in cooler space for milk and eggs. So I walk through these plastic swinging door-thingies, and I'm in the cooler space, and it's quieter in there, and all around me on gleaming steel shelves are gallons of bright and shiny milk containers, and cartons of eggs, bundled two-by-two in plastic-wrap. As I picked up a gallon of milk and my hand closes around the cold, plastic handle, and grab a bundle of eggs that I couldn't even check to see if they were cracked, I just got this awful, bone-deep sensation of wrongness, of knowing that this was not natural, this was the farthest thing from natural, and with my skin crawling, just wondering what on earth was in this stuff? I started to balk, but unfortunately, or fortunately, or whatever, I sucked it up because where else am I going to get food? I vow, that someday soon, my food predicament will change. I vow that all my eggs are coming from my own happily scratching chickens, not stuffed and caged critters fed whatever crap makes them spit out the most eggs in the shortest amount of time without keeling over. And my milk will be from happy, pastured animals, chewing on whatever they chew on, the milk split between my family and theirs. Sigh..the dream.

The reality...I ate my first home-grown zucchini tonight...I should have taken a picture, but I didn't think about it. I cut it from the vine, cut it into sticks, dusted them in some flour, and fried it in olive oil. Sprinkle on the salt and my-oh-my. It was heavenly. The flavor was so mild, it was pure zucchini divinity. It really tasted different. Maybe because it ripened on the vine, maybe because there were no chemicals used in it's production, maybe it was the varietal. I really don't know the reason.

What I do know, is that I can't wait for my first yellow summer squash. I have one that's only a few days away. I have delicious, brightly colored swiss chard that I am starting to use in many different things. I also have young green tomatoes and baby eggplants growing. It's so exciting to see them start to produce fruit. Amazing!

My first real yield of anything was Hungarian Wax Peppers...they're really chiles. They are early producing here in the northeast, and prolific! I was very pleasantly surprised, they've gotten a big jump start over the sweet peppers I've planted, although the plants themselves look fairly identical. I've got tons of little babies after bringing in a bunch just a few days ago. They have a nice flavor, a grassy, sharp heat when raw, especially with the seeds, but mellower, losing that bright, sharp edge when cooked. I'm going to start pickling them. They seem like they would be perfect for it.

I'm sort of amazed at how much I am loving growing food! I love the planting, the watering, less keen on the weeding, but I know it's necessary, so I do it. I am eagerly awaiting the next fruit of the vine, so to speak. I'll keep you posted.