Pork and Broccoli in My Favourite Indian Curry

pork_currybroccoliWritten with passion and respectful approach for recipes’ origins, Rick Stein’s India is a rare jewel of a book I highly recommend to all the fans of food from this part of the world. I am still far from having tested the whole content, but until now Squid Curry (I wrote about it here) is the most sensational discovery. First, I was thrilled to find my first Indian squid recipe, but most of all, I instantly fell in love with this particular curry sauce (or “gravy”, as apparently some Indians call it) and consider it not only the best Rick Stein’s curry but also my all-time favourite. It’s creamy, fiery, slightly bitter and slightly tangy… and I never get tired of it. After having prepared at least a dozen identical squid curries, I started to try other protein sources, enjoying every single experiment and this most recent one is a perfect example. Pork and broccoli are certainly not staples in India, but I dare say the result does taste and smell wonderfully Indian to me.

Apart from the usual adjustment of amounts, the replacement of frozen or fresh coconut (see the TIPS) with coconut milk and maybe some shortcuts I often try to invent as a lazy cook, this is more or less the original curry sauce, though I encourage you to discover Rick Stein’s book on your own. (Oh, and I always use coconut fat instead of the oil to fry the spices and onion; I love the additional coconut aroma it adds). Since I used here lean pork, I have treated it in a very un-Indian way, marinating it first in sake and salt, to soften the meat. If you use fattier cuts, you don’t need any marinade.

TIPS: The original recipe calls for frozen or fresh coconut, which is then mixed with water. I have never found frozen coconut; as for fresh… I do see it sometimes, but I’m too lazy to break it, peel it and mix (moreover, I’ve heard most coconuts arriving to Europe aren’t very fresh). This is why I use simply coconut milk.

Tamarind is a delicious “acidifier” of Indian – and also Thai – dishes. It is sold either fresh (but usually it’s the sweet snack version) or in hard dried blocks or in ready-to-use jam-like paste (in jars). I definitely prefer the block version because it keeps forever in the fridge and has a more lively taste than the paste (it’s dissolved in hot water and then strained to obtain “juice”). I never use the paste, so cannot tell you how much of it you should use; if it’s your choice, try to adjust the amounts to your preferences.

You can prepare the masala well in advance and keep for about a week in the fridge. You can also freeze it, but while mixing (you need some liquid to obtain a smooth paste) it’s better to add a bit of water instead of coconut milk which is not always perfect texture-wise after defrosting. The pork can be cut and put into marinade the day before you want to eat it.

Do not increase the amounts of any spices (except for chilli) when you prepare this dish for the first time, otherwise you might end up with a slightly bitter sauce (curcuma and mustard seeds are dangerous here).

I don’t eat mushy broccoli, so I add small florets at the end, until they are just heated. If you like very soft broccoli, add it together with the pork.

How to make Indian or Thai coconut milk curries lighter?

Coconut milk might be healthy, but it’s a high calorie and high fat ingredient. If you want to make a dish lighter, you can obviously add less milk, but you can also replace some of it with water or stock (I always skim the fat; it’s very easy after several hours in the fridge). It won’t be so creamy (I know, it won’t be “genuine traditional cuisine” either), but if you eat coconut milk-based dishes as often as I do, you might understand why I do this quite often… Everything depends on the dish and your preferences, but personally I find certain dishes still delicious with half of the milk replaced with water (or stock).

Do not buy low kcal or “light” coconut milk! It’s simply coconut milk with more water than the “standard” version (you can do it on your own and it will cost you -from my experience – at least twice less).

Preparation: about 30 minutes (except for the min. 1 hour marinade)

Ingredients (serves two):

Marinade:

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sake

Masala paste:

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

5 cloves garlic (peeled)

3 fresh red chillies

1 teaspoon powdered turmeric

100 ml/about 1.4 fl oz coconut milk or cream (or, if you can use fresh or frozen grated coconut, combine 50 g of it with 50 ml water)

300 g thinly sliced pork (about 3mm thick); the fatter the cut, the softer it will be, but I’ve used here pork loin and thanks to the marinade and the thin slices it wasn’t tough)

florets from 1/2 big broccoli (divide them into bite-sized pieces)

1 tablespoon coconut fat (or oil of your choice)

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 small onion, sliced

5 garlic cloves, sliced

3 cm ginger, grated into a pulp

2 fresh green chillies, sliced

1/2 Kashmiri chilli powder (or any chilli powder you have)

1 small tomato, chopped (skinned or not)

1 teaspoon salt

3 cm tamarind block piece (or ready-to-use tamarind paste, but adjust the amounts to your taste)

1 teaspoon jaggery or 1/2 teaspoon brown cane sugar

fresh coriander leaves, chopped or left whole

Cut the pork slices into bite-sized pieces. Combine with the marinade ingredients and refrigerate covered for at least one hour.

If you use the tamarind block, place the piece into a glass and pour 50 ml hot water. Leave for fifteen minutes. (In the meantime start preparing the masala paste and the curry). After this time, mix it well and strain leaving the seeds. You will obtain tamarind “juice”.

Prepare the masala paste. Grind all the seeds into a powder in a spice or coffee grinder (you can of course use a pestle and mortar). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well in a food processor (baby food processor is very useful for such pastes), adding the coconut milk/cream ir fresh coconut with water (or, if you want to keep the masala several days or freeze it, add just enough water to make a smooth paste).

Heat the oil and fry mustard seeds at medium heat until they start popping. Add the onion and stir-fry it for ten minutes at medium heat until it starts browning. Add the garlic, the ginger, the green chilli and fry for one more minute. Finally, add the masala paste, the pork, the chilli powder, the tomato, salt and simmer for 10 minutes until the pork is cooked. Add the 1/2 tamarind water and sugar and finally the broccoli florets. Heat for 30 seconds. Adjust the flavours (add more sugar or tamarind juice or water or coconut milk, if using…).

Serve sprinkled with coriander leaves.

 

Korean Style Monkfish with Smoked Bacon and Indian Spices

 

monk_baconpI recently saw on tv a French chef preparing the relatively popular monkfish wrapped in bacon. I buy monkfish as often as I can (i.e. whenever the price is reasonable) because I love it for its subtle taste but also for its firm flesh and versatility. This smokey fish reminded me of the Korean squid with bacon and Indian spices, discovered at the excellent Beyond Kimchee blog and replacing, since then, the ex-favourite, more traditional Spicy Korean Squid. Since I prepare Korean style monkfish quite often (see the recipe here), I decided to spice it up in a similar way, adding of course the smoked bacon. It worked just perfectly! At the end, just before serving, I put on top another delightful product: chopped Korean Pickled Garlic (the dark brown pieces in the middle of the bowl) and it was one of the best fish meals I’d had for years.

Monkfish in Korean-Style Gochujang Sauce

Monkfish in Korean-Style Gochujang Sauce

Korean Squid with Smoked Bacon and an Indian Touch (my slightly modified version)

Korean Squid with Smoked Bacon and an Indian Touch (my slightly modified version)

Pickled Korean Garlic (Manul Changachi)

Pickled Korean Garlic (Manul Changachi)

TIPS: Even if you buy a prepared, skinned monkfish fillets (or a whole skinned “tail”), you should make sure to remove all the traces of grey and pinkish thin “film” because it will shrink during the cooking process and somehow degrade the texture. You can try peeling it off with fish bone tweezers.

Of course, you can use any firm-flesh fish you like instead of the monkfish.

Gochujang, the Korean chilli paste is unique and impossible to replace. If you don’t have any Korean grocery shop nearby, gochujang is sold widely on internet, almost all around the world, so most of you should be able to buy it (check your local Amazon). Look for it also in Japanese shops and other Asian grocery shops. If you cannot find gochujang, do not try to replace it with other chilli pastes. It is not similar to any chilli product I have ever tasted and is an extremely important ingredient in the Korean cuisine (and it has a rather complex taste, hence the difficulty with a replacement). It keeps for ages, after opening, in the fridge, so it’s a good investment (in case you are wondering, what to do with it, check this link).

The below ratio of the sauce ingredients should be treated as approximate. Adjust the level of heat, sweetness or saltiness to your taste. Don’t exaggerate with turmeric: you can make your sauce bitter.

Preparation: about 30-40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

400-500 g monkfish “tail”, cleaned (see the TIPS) and cut into bite-sized chunks

3 stripes (thin) of smoked streaky bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces

(a small handful of soybean or mungo bean sprouts)

salt

4 tablespoons sake

2-3 tablespoons oil

white part of two green onions, sliced

Sauce:

2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

2 heaped tablespoons gochujang (see the TIPS)

2 tablespoons sake

1 tablespoon Korean chilli powder (or other medium hot chilli powder)

1 tablespoon honey or syrup or sugar

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

10 tablespoons (or more) of stock (chicken/vegetable/dashi/Korean fish stock….whatever you like) or water

1 tablespoon chopped green onions or chives

(2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil)

Sprinkle some salt on monkfish and 4 tablespoon of sake.

Put aside for 10 minutes.

Combine the sauce ingredients.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan.

Fry the bacon and put it aside (don’t remove the fat from the pan).

Pat-dry the monkfish pieces and quickly brown on two sides (at high heat) in the bacon fat.

Take them out of the pan.

Add the sauce ingredients to the same pan and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and put the monkfish pieces, as well as the white part of green onions into the sauce.

Add more water or stock if necessary (it depends also on how watery ou want your sauce to be) and simmer the monkfish until it’s soft but not dry.  Check often the texture with a fork because monkfish is easily overcooked.

At the end add the sprouts (if using) and fried/grilled bacon. Give the dish a stir just to warm those up.

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, green onion and a splash of sesame oil.

If you have Korean pickled garlic, it’s excellent with this dish.

Filo (or Yufka) Rolls with Beetroot and Feta

beet_filoyufkaBeetroot is one of these widely available vegetables I – strangely – almost never buy. I do not hate it, but it never provokes a craving I often experience while seeing beautiful tomatoes, aubergines or recently even fennel. When I recently saw the fabulously elegant Roasted Beets with Aromatised Feta Mousse at Katerina’s Culinary Flavors, I found the combination of the two ingredients highly promising and kept on thinking about it. Whenever I think about Katerina, filo pastry instantly comes to my mind and this is how I had this idea. If you hate beetroot, obviously these rolls are not for you, but for me, who has nothing against it, they were the best thing I’ve ever had with this humble vegetable. Thank you so much, dear Katerina, for this wonderful idea and constant inspiration!

Here are some other filo/phyllo pastry ideas you might like (especially if you hate beetroot):

Filo Rolls with Black Pudding

Filo Rolls with Black Pudding

Feather-Light Filo Tart with Plums

Feather-Light Filo Tart with Plums

Filo Rolls with Chanterelle and Goat Cheese

Filo Rolls with Chanterelle and Goat Cheese

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Feta and Leek

Filo Rolls with Feta and Leek

Filo Triangles with Curried Beef

Filo Triangles with Curried Beef

Spanakopita (Greek Feta and Spinach Pie)

Spanakopita (Greek Feta and Spinach Pie)

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

Filo Rolls with Roasted Green Chilli Pepper and Feta

Filo Rolls with Roasted Green Chilli Pepper and Feta

TIPS:  While adjusting the taste I found the beetroots’ sweetness too overwhelming and decided to add first lots of garlic, then chilli powder and finally some tamarind pulp. For my tastebuds this last magical touch that has made the filling perfect, but you might not like beetroot with strong flavours, so add all those gradually, according to your preferences.

You might wonder what cracked wheat or semolina are doing here. This is a magical trick I learnt from Katerina too: if added in small amounts, cracked wheat will not change the taste or texture, but it will absorb the humidity from the filling (the rolls will not leak).

I have recently had problems to buy filo pastry (my two favourite supermarkets stopped selling it), so I made an experiment with yufka, often described as “filo of the Balkans/Turkey” (my package even had the word “filo” printed). Well, even though I find this new pastry good, it is definitely NOT filo. Yufka (at least the one I bought) is at least 3 or four times thicker than filo pastry and doesn’t have such a light crumbly effect when baked (I find it also doesn’t brown quickly, hence the light colour at the photograph above). In short, it works as an emergency replacement, but is definitely different.

Tamarind (apart from its raw form) is usually sold either in hard blocks or in ready-to-use pulp (usually in jars). I strongly encourage everyone to buy the blocks, which keep for years in the fridge and which yield a much more lively, tangy pulp than the jarred one (moreover, they don’t have strange additives). It’s very easy to prepare pulp from the block: tear a 2×2 cm square and put into a mug. Add about 100 ml boiling water and after 5 minutes start stirring until the block starts dissolving. Leave for about 15 minutes and than strain through a sieve, pushing the pulp out with a spoon. Such a freshly squeezed pulp will keep in the fridge for several days.

Preparation: about 2 hours (or 1 hour if the beetroot is already cooked)

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter):

8-10 filo sheets or 2 1/2 yufka sheets

2 big beetroots

180-200 g feta

4 big garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp (if you make it on your own, or 3-4 tablespoons if you use the jarred pulp) or lime juice

salt, pepper, chilli powder

3 flat tablespoons cracked wheat or semolina

melted butter or oil

(fresh coriander leaves or dill)

Cook or bake the beetroots until very soft.

Put the cold beetroots and the garlic in a food processor and mix to a pulp.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Place the beetroot pulp in a bowl and add the cumin, the turmeric, the tamarind pulp and crumbled feta.

Season with chilli, salt, pepper and ground black pepper. Taste and adjust the flavours and add cracked wheat at the end. Give the pulp a good last stir.

If you use yufka, cut the sheets into four pieces each. Divide the filling into as many equal parts as the yufka pieces you have obtained.  Then, proceed as if you had filo sheets (which you don’t need to cut).

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge closest to you, a portion of the filling.

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Brush the rolls just before baking with some oil or melted butter.

Bake until light golden. Serve hot or slightly warm.

You can sprinkle with coriander or dill before serving.

Leftover Seaweed Rice Topping (Kombu no Tsukudani)

konbu_tsukudanipHave you ever considered making your own Japanese stock (dashi)? If you like miso soup, you should try doing it at least once. Then you will realise it’s a piece of cake in comparison with, say, chicken stock, not to mention the difference in taste with the powdered form. All you need (for the most popular dashi type) is dried konbu/kombu seaweed (昆布) and dried bonito flakes, both easily available at Japanese groceries or by internet. You can keep your stock several days in the fridge, you can of course freeze it, use also in Western dishes… the only problem you might encounter is throwing away the beautifully scented kombu strip, which obviously still has a culinary potential.

After different unsuccessful attempts, like shredding it and putting into Japanese stews, I finally discovered tsukudani, a delicious rice topping which gives a perfect second life to kombu. In fact, I love it so much, I no longer see leftover kombu as a problem, but as a great chance to prepare this addictive, crunchy, umami-flavoured alternative to the boring soy sauce.

Tsukudani 佃煮 is an old method of preserving, coming from the years when fridges were unheard of. Its main ingredient can be seaweed, meat or seafood. The products are simmered in soy sauce and mirin (sometimes with additional seasoning), until the mixture thickens. Thanks to the high concentration such a preparation keeps for longer. I prefer to keep it in the fridge because it tastes better when cold, but it will keep at room temperature too.

(My recipe is loosely adapted from ingredients’ list I have read on the package of a commercial tsukudani (I don’t even remember the brand…) and then adapted the amounts to my taste.)

TIPS: If you prepare dashi for the first time, don’t wash dry konbu before using it in dashi or in anything else! You will wash away lots of its flavour (and maybe some health benefits too…). Of course, rinse the cooked kombu before making tsukudani.

Apart from being an excellent rice topping, this tsukudani is delicious on fried or poached egg and also fresh cheese/quark toast… but possibilities are endless

Preparation: about 15 minutes

Ingredients (the below amounts should be treated only as a hint and adapted to everyone’s taste):

(approximately) 7 cm (about 3 in) piece of leftover konbu (still moist and fresh from the previous preparation)

4 tablespoons low sodium Japanese soy sauce (or 2 tablespoons of normal Japanese soy sauce)

1 tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking sake)

1 tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds

3-4 tablespoons dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi); I prefer here the small pieces

Rinse the konbu piece and chop it into tiny cubes or threads.

Place the kombu into a small pan, add the soy sauce, the mirin, the sake and the sesame seeds.

Let it all simmer at low heat until it thickens and becomes glossy.

Take off the heat, add the dried bonito flakes and stir well.

Keep in a closed jar in the fridge; it will last at least a month.

Serve as rice topping/seasoning.

Greek Yogurt (or Quark) Spread with Caramelised Red Onion

onionspreadpI discovered this wonderful spread in an overpriced, but otherwise average restaurant I’d certainly try to forget if it hadn’t been for quark with caramelised red onion, the highlight of their welcome snacks (and of the whole evening really). Visually unappealing, it proved surprisingly complex in taste and absolutely delicious. It has quickly become my staple light snack and favourite winter breakfast. I prepare a batch and, as soon as it’s finished, I prepare a new one. It’s been going on like this for several weeks and I don’t get tired of all these fantastic flavours.

TIPS: The restaurant I’ve mentioned used quark (aka fresh cheese or fromage frais), which is not available everywhere. Greek yogurt has a similar consistency and is also perfect here (I’ve tested both and even made it with normal natural yogurt and all these three options work perfectly). (Though if you have choice, do try it with quark first). You can also try it with thick sour cream; it will no longer be light, but the slight tanginess will be there.

US cream cheese is not an option here:  it doesn’t have the tanginess and freshness yogurts or quark have, so I don’t advise it; moreover the spread would no longer be healthy or light….

The condiments’ amount given below should be treated as a vague proposition. Taste the onion (when cooled) and adjust according to your taste.

If you skip soy sauce, the onions will retain their purple colour. (Soy sauce is my recent improvement idea).

SERVING IDEAS: My absolute number one is a canapé with thin Finnish wholemeal crisp bread, but it goes as spread/dip on any bread, chips, nachos, etc.. You can serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken or as heat taming sauce with Mexican or even Indian dishes. I’m sure it tastes fantastic with baked potatoes.

Preparation: about 30 minutes + at least 2 hours in the fridge.

Ingredients:

200 ml (about 6 oz) Greek yogurt or Quark (see the TIPS above)

1 big red onion (which has a size of a medium white onion)

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons vinegar (the best would be balsamic; if you use a stronger one, put only 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

ground black pepper

(salt, if needed)

Cut the peeled onion in half and slice more or less finely.

Heat the oil in a pan and constantly stirring, fry the onion at medium heat until it loses about half of its volume.

Add the vinegar, the soy sauce and the sugar and continue stir-frying.

After about 5 minutes, put aside, let it chill and taste. Adjust the flavours, adding more salt, sugar or vinegar and fry for a minute to heat once more. (Don’t taste the onion when it’s warm because the taste changes a lot). At the end add ground pepper and give the onions the last stir.

Combine with the yogurt or quark, add more freshly ground black pepper,  and refrigerate for at least two hours. It improves greatly overnight.