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red curry

Today, like no time before we have exposure to food from literally every corner of the planet and all at the touch of a keyboard. In fact we are so overloaded with food imagery and commentary that it’s hard to determine what is authentic, and actually, what does authentic or traditional really mean anyway.

Personally I like to think of myself as a bit of a stickler for respecting authenticity, but of course all traditions have to start somewhere, and I recall reading that :

“…..all food traditions started as accidents or successful experiments.”

On reflection, this rings pretty true to me. Growing up as a young cook in 1970’s Adelaide with its amazing central market, experimentation became a constant theme as I  immersed myself in a world of food that to most people globally wasn’t possible without travel. Today we call this appropriation and blending of cultures “Fusion” but in Australia, with our multicultural melting pot as a backdrop, we were, probably some of the earliest adaptors of the culinary possibilities available.

With this in mind, even though at the time BBQ’s meant forequarter chops, snags and rissoles, for me they were all about the seemingly exotic: Grilled marinated quails with lemon and cumin, Sate as shared by Balinese friends, and Cevapcici instead of sausages. Vietnamese food wasn’t a “New” fad food but a reality well before the first Vietnamese restaurants opened and Indian spicing became as familiar to me as  classical “French” cuisine.

However over time, as culinary themes became repetitive with concepts and food traditions intersecting, digging a bit deeper into  history became as important to me as mastering technique. After all, commerce and trade, military alliances, politics and religious leanings have at some point linked all of today’s major culinary players in one way or another. The best example for me would have to be the spice trade. In simplistic terms the cuisines of the entire known Western world were altered forever by the introduction of spices following the crusades against the Saracens of the middle ages.

spices 2 With the returning crusaders, fragrant blends of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg amongst others (themselves traded from the far East) became common place in the cooking of the wealthy in Europe, leaving a legacy that lives today in the spicing of fruitcakes and mince pies of Britain, Pates and Charcuterie of the latin lands and mulled beverages and spiced cordials of the colder northern climes.

In fact these spices became so desirable, and so valuable, that along with evangelical  zealotry, they sparked ambitions of global exploration and expansionism. Subsequently and  despite their size as a nation, the Portuguese took to the task with relish, and while the Spanish chased gold they just about single handedly changed food and eating on almost every continent. Responsible for not only introducing tomatoes, chilies and potatoes to India, Sri Lanka and the Moluccas, but also transplanting the cassava from the Americas to Africa and South East Asia.

In return they  took fragrant eastern spices like cinnamon and cloves to their Brazilian colony in the new world along with exotic foods like rice and bananas. But it wasn’t all about trade, they also imparted many of their cooking traditions to the “local” cuisines in their sphere of influence. In the process they introduced the concept of “Tempura” to Japan, Vinho de Ahlo or “Vindaloo” to Goa, and delicious soft Portuguese bread rolls or “Pao” all across Asia along with Pasteis de nata or Daan Tart as they are known in Macau and Canton.

potuguese territories

Portuguese Atlas c 1570

Interestingly though, despite their fairly short “occupation” of these territories in historical terms, they left a legacy that is still evident today in just about every place they settled. In particular a blend of vibrant and piquant red peppers, fragrant spices and seasonings pervades all of these cuisines.

In Portugal itself, it is a blend of spices used for chourico the Portuguese version of Chorizo. In Mozambique it forms the base for Piri Piri, and in Mumbai, for the East Indians of  Portuguese descent, it is their Bottle Masala, and finally it forms pretty much the base for both Brazilian Moqueca and Sri Lankan red curry.

So what’s in this blend? …well, we’ve actually “bottled” it  and we’re pleased to announce the first batch of “Food Luddite Magellan” is packed and ready for sale for our debut at the Barossa Farmers Market in August. Named after the 16th century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, a man who would have been familiar with both the Portuguese territories mentioned above and the delicious flavours displayed in the recipe below.

ferdinand_magellan

Ferdinand Magellan

Red Curried Chicken

4 Chicken thighs– bone in, skinless
100ml white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
15g Food Luddite “Magellan” spice mix

1 tbsp coconut oil 1 sprig curry leaves
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 medium onions – sliced
2 cloves garlic – crushed
4cm piece ginger – grated

400g tomato – diced
200ml coconut cream
2 teaspoons jaggery or palm sugar
1 bunch fresh coriander – roots and stalks chopped, leaves retained for garnish

Method

Marinate the chicken  with vinegar, spices & salt, cover and refrigerate preferably overnight

Heat coconut oil and fry curry leaves and mustard seeds until they crackle, add onions and fry until soft.

Add ginger and garlic and continue to fry gently until deep golden then add tomatoes, coconut cream, sugar and chopped coriander along with the marinated chicken

Simmer until the chicken is tender and the gravy is rich and reduced, garnish with reserved coriander leaves.

Kale…FFS……its just ancient cabbage …..

To be honest I have had it with the mania surrounding Kale, not that I don’t like the stuff, it has its place, but talk about over exposed and over hyped. Seriously does anyone really “love” the taste of Kale juice or think that shredded kale in a salad is “amazing” and don’t get me started on Kale chips…..

Sure it has really healthy properties, and can taste pretty good when cooked correctly, but these simple “headless” members of the cabbage family are punching way above their weight right now and I have no doubt that down the track this “healthy trend” will be consigned to the “loony fad” bin along with pet rocks, cabbage patch kids and hopefully cold drip coffee but that’s another rant!

yummy kale juice

So this week when the “latest” Kale phenomenon “Kalettes” hit the media with a fanfare, enough was enough. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3088556/Meet-Kalette-hottest-new-vegetable-hybrid-hitting-Australia-mash-trendy-Kale-BRUSSEL-SPROUTS.html So now we have a new hybrid that apparently took the Northern hemisphere by storm last year so now of course its our turn. In reality of course this “new vegetable” is just another branch among many in the Brassica family.

Maybe it’s best to get a few things straight about Kale. Firstly all members of this genus started life from a humble wild cabbage or Colewort as is was known historically, and over the past 3000 or so years we have seen this “weed” (for that’s what wort means) gradually “improved” to develop the vegetables we know today that include: Cauliflower (Cole-i-flower) Broccoli (Broc-cole-i) Collard greens (Cole-ard) and Borecole (Bor-i-cole) amongst others.

Wild Cabbage

 

Essentially variations of  the English “Col” meaning cabbage or kale  are used similarly in different languages to name members of this family, for example, Col (Spanish) Kool (Dutch) Kohl (German) Kail (Celtic) Kal (Scandinavian) Couve (Portuguese) Cavolo (Italy) and finally Chou (French) and Choy (Chinese). For those interested the following is worth reading http://wordhistories.com/2014/03/24/cabbage-chou/

Now, taken to its logical extension, this “Kalette” hybrid is simply put, Kale, an ancient improvement on Colewort, crossed with Brussels sprouts, one of the more recent cultivars from the same plant with the result a kind of reverse engineering and I’m pretty sure we’ve probably been here before except we didn’t have major seed companies and supermarkets invested in their success.

So what’s my objection to humble Kale?, well its certainly not the vegetable itself, I actually really like it as part of my Dutch mother-in-laws’  “Stamppot” where the Borecole or Curly kale or Boerenkool as she calls it, is cooked with potatoes, mashed and served with rookwurst  (a delicious smoked pork sausage) and with my Irish heritage I am no stranger to it through that stalwart of the Gaelic kitchen, Colcannon (pictured below) which is equally good with pork sausages, chops, crispy belly or maybe its just good with pork full stop.

colcannon

I also remember a stomping great plant that towered over me in our backyard in the UK when I was a little tacker and back then, Kale was a very common veggie patch and allotment staple (think community garden) because it grew like a weed at a time during and post WWII when nutritious vegetables were in short supply, no hint of its rock star status back then, so yes I have had my share of Kale, boiled or steamed with lots of salted butter and white pepper and its fine this way as well.

No, its just that frankly, despite what some may say its not a cure all, its just another cruciferous vegetable, and there is a whole big world of brassica’s out there to choose from, (and that come with a lot less self righteous indignation I might add). No please give me gai lan, bok choy, or a nice small savoy cabbage or heaven help me tiny sweet baby Brussels sprouts that have been grown somewhere nice and frosty (which brings out the sweetness) rather than pander to yet another super food trend.

So in keeping to my rant I post the following recipe for one my favourite cabbage dishes. Not surprisingly for those that know me it is Indian in origin (actually specifically Bengali) but it is comfortingly enough familiar to the western palate to be a great winter food to accompany rich meats like Duck, Goose or even pork . However at risk of being labeled a hypocrite, I need to note that it does contain that other recently lauded “super food” turmeric, except here it is performing its ancient role as a calmative along with the other digestive spices, not only to help make it delicious but to mitigate the potentially sulphurous effects of these leafy greens and definitely not to save the world or make my skin more lustrous, Enjoy!

banda1

Bandhakopir Bhaji

1 tablespoon      sunflower or mustard oil
2 teaspoons       panch phoron
2 teaspoon         turmeric
1 small                green chilli – chopped
1 small                onion – chopped
1 clove                garlic – crushed
1 cm                     ginger – grated
¼                        white cabbage – shredded
2 teaspoons       sugar
1 teaspoon          salt
2 tablespoons   tamarind water

Method

  • Heat oil and fry panch phoron until seeds pop, add turmeric and chilli and fry briefly

banda3

  • Add onion and ginger and cook golden then add garlic and cook briefly until fragrant.

banda2

  • Toss cabbage through, then add all remaining ingredients, cover and cook quickly until cabbage wilts and liquids evaporate

IMG_20150529_145824

In a bit of a pickle …..

 

dead leaves

Our house smells kind of awesome right now, let me explain why….

The weather in our fair valley has turned, autumn seems to have come to a premature halt and it certainly looks and feels like winter out there right now. Of course that means our little vegie patch, along with everyone else’s, has entered that semi dormant state, which means before we can recondition the soil and sow our cover crops and some broad beans and garlic for spring, we need to clear the remnant summer vegetable fruits that are clearly struggling now that the cold snap has bitten. Luckily, we have already eaten most of the eggplants and there were only a few lonely zucchini bravely hanging on, but our tomato plants were still hopeful, holding a couple of kilos of green tomatoes that were never going to get any riper or sweeter.

green-tomatoes-600x400 (2)

 

Being a frugal type I really didn’t want to waste them so we decided to preserve, but following which process. Frankly I am not a fan of green tomato chutney but I do love a good South Indian Style Pickle. As with all recipes there are many variations and methodologies but when it comes to green tomato pickles there are a few main schools of thought. Starting out with pretty much the same ingredients, they are either simply salted and fermented or cured in the sun, but both of those take patience and time. Others fast track the process and involve a little cooking, and the following recipe takes this route.

ingredients

At once salty, sour, bitter, spicy and pungent, these pickles are kind of addictive, but oh so simple. Mustard seed and fenugreek are really the heroes and that’s what’s making the house smell so good, but on the down side as a fresh unfermented pickle they don’t last long, but that’s not going to be a problem. And so as I write this blog, despite the cold weather and drizzle, I have fired up our tandoor for some smoky grilled eggplant, yogurt marinated lamb, naan bread and those delicious green tomato pickles…. Excuse me while I eat!

lamb n naan

Green Tomato Pickles

60ml                           mustard oil
1 tablespoon              black mustard seed
½ teaspoon               asafetida powder
1 teaspoon                 fenugreek – ground
1 tablespoon              Kashmiri chili powder
750g                            green tomatoes – roughly cut in 1cm dice
50 ml                          fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon              salt

Method

  • Heat oil in a stainless steel saucepan until almost smoking, remove from heat and allow to cool, then reheat oil, add mustard seed frying gently until it starts to crackle and pop

mustard seed

  • Add asafetida, fenugreek and chili powder and continue to fry for one minute

sizzling spice

  • Add tomatoes, lime juice and salt and bring to a simmer

green toms

  • Cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until the oil starts to separate then remove from the heat, fill into sterilized jars and seal or place in a storage container and refrigerate until needed

pickle

Note: if not sealed into sterilized jars this pickle is best eaten in between 7– 10 days if covered and stored in the fridge

 

Pav Bhaji – A Blog in Two Parts – Pt 2

 

Pav Bhaji

Last week I wrote about the special little bread rolls from Bombay (or more correctly today, Mumbai) called Pav. An indispensable part of the street food called Pav Bhaji (pronounced Pow Bar-jee), This vegetarian dish really is to Mumbaikars what the meat pie is to Australian blue collar workers,  quick, relatively cheap and filling.

Hardly a dish for polite society, my initiation to this Marathi treat came while I was spending a week in the kitchen of Colabas Konkan Cafe learning the finer points of this regions native cuisine from some of the Taj Hotels best local chefs. 046

As in every kitchen, they have a pecking order and despite being welcomed as an honored guest I was still the newbie, and like every newcomer to a kitchen brigade one has to pass muster with the team. For me this came in the form of a  secret food challenge, specifically lots of chili just for a giggle.

And so, on my second day, “as a treat”  one of the senior chefs made a incendiary version of Pav Bhaji (with apparently twice as much chili as would normally be used) but fortunately , over the years I have developed a reasonable chili tolerance, and knowing the game I grinned and bared it, and it paid off.

konkan cafe crew

With my initiation complete, working with these guys was an absolute joy and the rest of my week flew.  Not only did they take me under their wings and open my eyes to the “East Indian” style of cooking they specialized in, but they also helped school me on India’s myriad cuisines, ensuring I ate at dozens of their favourite, authentic Parsi, Gujerati, Sindi, Goan and Tamil places across greater Bombay. But back the Bhaji part of this dish.

Essentially a “Bhaji” is a simple vegetable dish in the local dialect, but in this guise the Bhaji is a dish of cooked potatoes, mashed and fried in lots of butter, with chopped onions, peppers and tomatoes plus the addition of peas, cauliflower and a spicy red masala.

Pav Bhaji Wallah - image from Food Republic

Although  first documented in the 1850’s,  the name is a kind of Creole. The word Pav clearly derived from “Pão” the Portuguese word for bread or roll and interestingly when they introduced this bread to this region almost 500 years ago they also introduced just about every other ingredient currently used in this version of “Bhaji” (with the exception of dried spices, onions and butter)

Despite these mixed origins, today “Pav Bhaji” it is one of the great original snack foods of India, and like most Indian snacks it is almost always cooked and eaten on the street rather than restaurants. As for serving, the “Pavs” are simply split, buttered and toasted and served to the side of the “Bhaji”, which itself is garnished with chopped onion, coriander and yet another spoonful of fresh butter. Rich, Spicy and Delicious!

 Bhaji (for Pav Bhaji)

200g                       butter
1 teaspoon             cumin seeds
1 teaspoon             garlic – minced
1 teaspoon             ginger-minced
1                              green chili – chopped
1                              onion – finely chopped
1                              tomato – finely chopped
½                           green capsicum – finely chopped

1 tablespoon       garam masala
1 teaspoon          Kashmiri chili powder
1 teaspoon          coriander powder
1 teaspoon          sweet paprika
1 teaspoon          turmeric powder
½ teaspoon        amchur (green mango powder)

1                             potato
½ cup                   cauliflower – chopped
½ cup                   carrot – chopped
½ cup                   green peas
Salt to taste

To serve:
4 pavs                   (see last weeks blog)
fresh coriander
chopped red onion
lime wedges- optional Method

Boil all vegetables except onions, tomatoes and capsicum until soft enough to mash – reserve.

Bhaji ingredients

In a large, flat pan or bbq plate melt a third of the butter, add cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add the chopped onions and fry until transparent, add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.

Tomato Masala

Add green chilies, fry briefly then add the tomatoes and fry until mushy, then and add capsicum and dry ground spices.

adding spices

Mix and fry stirring constantly until capsicum softens, then add vegetables, mash and continue frying, stirring well.

mash veggies

Add another tablespoon of butter and keep frying for 7-8 minutes stirring constantly. Add a little water if the “bhaji” becomes too dry, check for seasoning and add salt to taste. This cooking time is really important to developing an authentic flavor

frying bhaji

While in this final stage, split pavs and fry /toast in another tablespoon of butter on the edge of the pan allowing the bun to crisp and absorb butter.

toasting pav's

To serve, garnish each portion of bhaji with a teaspoon of butter, some chopped onion, coriander leaves and serve with the toasted “Pavs” (you can also serve some fresh lime wedges to the side if you like)

Pav Bhaji

Delicious Nightshades

After last week’s plague of zucchini, it could only be a tomato tsunami this week. On a serious note it would be nice if things ripened evenly because it certainly looks like we’re due an eggplant glut in the next couple of weeks, ratatouille in installments anyone? Of course this is the joy of home gardening, but also why we love our farmers markets like our one here in the Barossa, (arguably one of Australia’s best), simply because different gardens have different things at different times.

toamtoes

Anyway this time, unlike my ponderings over zucchini, there really is no question what to make. Forget passata and relish, there will definitely be no bothering with “dead horse”, no for me there is only one thing to do with an abundance of sweet ripe tomatoes and that is make chutney.

ginger

However this is not your typical “Anglo” grandma chutney, spiced up with curry powder and a hadful of raisins. No, my recipe of choice is for an authentic Bengali “Tamator Chaatney”. Certainly there are elements of curry in the ingredients with ginger, chili, fenugreek and other whole “curry spices” but this is really so much about the tomatoes, so rich and bright red, with crunchy shreds of ginger and a beautiful spicy, sweet, sour balance.

spices

There’s nothing complicated in the prep either, the only technical part is slicing the ginger into fine matchsticks or if you’re into fancy terminology “Julienne”, but even that’s easy this time of year because tender, paper skinned, juicy young ginger from Queensland is in peak supply right now.

panch phoran

Essentially to make this, the simplest of chutneys, the spices including the “Panch Phoron” (a blend of five whole seeds, keep an eye on our website for the release of this and other Food Luddite spice blends in the coming weeks) are simply fried, the tomatoes and seasonings are added and the whole is simmered until rich. Lastly coriander leaves and lime juice are added and its ready for immediate use. However, with a layer of oil on top it will last for weeks in the fridge, but I doubt you can keep it that long, because it goes with just about everything!

 

Bengali Tamator Chaatney

120ml                                  vegetable oil
2 teaspoons                        panch phoron
4                                         green chillies – chopped
4                                         cloves garlic  – chopped
5 cm piece                          fresh ginger – shredded into fine matchsticks
1kg                                     ripe tomatoes – diced in approx. 1cm cubes
2 teaspoons                       salt
1/2 cup                               sugar
50ml                                   white vinegar
2                                         limes – juice of
2 tablespoons                    coriander leaf – shredded

Method

  •  Fry panch phoron in hot oil, add garlic, chilli and ginger and fry gently for 2-3 minutes
  • Add Tomatoes, salt, sugar and vinegar and simmer until well reduced and oil starts to separate at the edges of the pan.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, stir through the lime juice and fresh coriander to finish
  • Seal in sterilized jars or store in the fridge in a sealable container with a little extra oil floated on top.