Monday, December 20, 2010

curry with a great provenance

The genesis of ideas fascinates me. Recipes, like family history, have a habit of unfolding, blending and recreating themselves. It excites me to find other people's scribbles and cross-outs in cookbooks (though never, ever in fiction!), a meeting of social anthropology and culinary exploration. It gives me a thrill to find a library book, splattered from a visit to a borrowers kitchen, with a secret message of a substitution or deletion pencilled into the margin.

I’m pathologically incapable of following a recipe exactly. I do my best to honour the spirit of the inventor but when it comes to savoury cooking I really struggle to toe the line if I don’t have all the ingredients. Perhaps it’s sheer laziness that leads me to be so adaptive?

For my final recipe post of the year I can trace back the provenance of the dish. This great curry comes to you from Jamie Oliver, via Reem's adaptation, wih a Food Nazi veganization for good measure.

I don’t own a single Oliver cookbook. I’ve always been ambivalent about his boyish charms, though I admit he’s likable… in a Shane Warne of Cooking kind of way. But what the man excels in is simple, flexible recipes. The Jamie/Reem curry is dead easy and quick as well, which always ticks my boxes.

So I bring you their favourite curry sauce for fish, from Jamie Oliver's Happy Days with the Naked Chef.

Only it doesn’t have any fish in it.

Though it would be very tasty with seafood.

Oh and I changed the flavouring just a teeny bit, with fresh turmeric, coriander seeds, kaffir lime leaves and some palm sugar. I swapped green chillies for red and dropped the curry leaves.

But does anyone know where Jamie got the recipe from in the first place?

My (new) Favourite Curry Sauce
(Quantities for two)

1 tab coconut oil
1-2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 -1tsp Fenugreek Seeds (optional, I think I’ll give them a miss next time)
1 tsp fresh coriander seeds (or dried if you have to)
I tsp of finely chopped red chili (or this preserved version)
2-3 kaffir lime leaves, split in half
1 small onion
1thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled & coarsely grated
1 thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
200 ml coconut milk
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 –2 tsp grated palm sugar
A large pinch of salt
Vegetables, chopped into small pieces
1 block, Tofu – pressed to remove excess water, cubed

Heat a tablespoon of coconut or plain vegetable oil in a heavy based pan. Add the mustard seeds and stir. When they start popping add the fenugreek, coriander seeds and chili, stir some more. Take the onion, ginger and turmeric and chop in a food processor. Add to the pan. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the chopped tomatoes (or even better, whiz them in the already dirty food processor) and you guessed it, stir some more. Add the coconut, tamarind concentrate, kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar. Allow the paste to cook down a little and thicken. Add a pinch of salt and adjust sugar/salt/tamarind as necessary to balance the flavours.

Your sauce is ready to receive whatever you fancy. Jamie/Reem used seafood (which would work especially well with the citrus tones of the kaffir lime leaves) but I was on an end of the week vegetable crisper clean out – so in went carrots, cauliflower and chunks of zucchini. Make sure the vegetables are well coated in sauce. You may need to add a cup of water too loosen as it cooks down. Five minutes before serving add the cubes of tofu and allow them to soak up the flavours.

Garnish with fresh coriander if you want to be fancy.

Serve with rice or roti.

Notes – The curry is a gorgeous brick red colour and the fragrance is amazing. The fresh coriander seeds were wonderful. Keep it subtle and they marry with the other seeds. I had no curry leaves and though I know the kaffir lime gave the curry a different accent it was worth the deviation. As for the sugar, something tasted slightly bitter (maybe I’d scorched the fenugreek?) and the sugar along with the salt (what no salt in the original recipe?!) and the acid of the tamarind corrected the balance.

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Anonymous kitchen hand said...

Like everyone else, he probably filched it. These curry recipes are endlessly variable and endlessly interesting. Whatever works works.

6:35 pm  
Blogger steve said...

Hiya AOF-have a lovely christmas wont you!
Cheers Steve

3:07 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Welcome back Kitchen Hand - hope you've had a great year.

Ta Steve, you too. Don't forget I have a bottle of Cold Duck with your name on it!

6:04 pm  
Anonymous Jane said...

It's a beautiful curry. The best I've ever made - very thai. Thanks Gill.

4:17 pm  

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