Wasn't that FUN?! As La Diva finds Indian restaurants in Miami to be rare, mediocre and over-priced, she really finds it worth her time to make it herself. Years ago, when I first moved to Australia, I was introduced to the cookbook of a local culinary talent: Charmaine Solomon. Food columnist, cooking instructor extraordinaire and an exceptional cook and authority on Southeast Asian cooking, Charmaine's recipes are thorough and authentic. It is the springboard that started La Diva's education, love and understanding of Asian food. I've taken the next three recipes from her book:
The Complete Asian Cookbook
This book covers recipes from 16 countries including Thailand, India, Japan and China, and the book also includes the more obscure countries like Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It is my all-time favorite and most-utilized of all cookbooks and every dish I've tried has been a success. If you do decide to buy one as well, please invest in the hard-cover as you will reach for this invaluable book again and again and again!
Now, darlings, with Indian cooking, you DO need a variety of spices and pastes to which there is just no substitute. I found these recipes to be fairly easy without too many steps and without using too many obscure ingredients. However, you WILL most likely have to take a trip to the Asian grocery to get the spices. I have found a good Indian grocery store in Miami (there are a lot of Indians in the Caribbean):
Nu Sunshine Indo Pak Grocery
1813 NE 164th St.
North Miami Beach FL 33162
305 948 9856
I've made three dishes which I will share with you over the course of the next three days: a spicy beef curry (vindaloo, my all-time favorite), and two vegetable sides using the rest of the braising greens and a turnip (saag) and half of the eggplant (brinjal bartha) To get the fullest flavor, I try to always cook my meat curries the day before, so the flavors may meld. However, before you get frustrated and think to yourself, "I can't possibly do this!" just keep in mind that La Diva only cooks like this when she has time. Many times, I cheat and use Patak's curry pastes and can cook up a curry in a hurry! But, if you are ready to try something different and push the boundaries of your culinary repertoire, please, read on!
Here is the recipe for the first dish, the beef vindaloo. I'd like to note:
- Use the correct amount of meat, otherwise there will be too much vinegar.
- Because of the high acid content, marinate the meat in a non-reactive bowl like ceramic. The author also suggests cooking in earthenware, enamel or stainless steel for the same reasons.
- You may substitute the beef for pork or lamb. My recipe called for pork but I decided to use beef.
Indian Beef Vindaloo
2 lbs. lamb, beef or pork (this is the time to use the fatty cuts that take a while to cook down)
6-8 large dried red chilies
1 c vinegar (coconut is preferred, if you can find it)
2 t chopped fresh ginger
2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/4 t ground nutmeg
2 t salt
2-3 T ghee or oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 T brown sugar, optional
Cut meat into cubes. Soak chillies in vinegar for 10 minutes. Any kind of vinegar may be used, but if using double strength cider vinegar, dilute with an equal quantity of water. Put chillies and vinegar, ginger and garlic into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add ground spices and salt. Marinate meat for two hours in this mixture.
Heat ghee or oil and fry onions gently until soft and golden. Stir frequently and cook until all liquid from onions has evaporated and the oil comes out. Drain meat from marinade and fry, turning cubes, until meat changes color, then pour in marinade, cover pan and simmer on low heat until meat is well cooked. Stir in sugar, if used. Serve hot with plain rice and accompaniments.
Cucumber Mint Raita
La Diva serves her spicy vindaloo with plain basmati rice and cucumber raita. Here's my version of the recipe:
La Diva's cucumber raita:
Peel one large cucumber and cut lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scoop out seeds and discard. Cut the cucumber into small dice. In a bowl, combine half of a large tub of plain, natural organic yogurt with cucumber. Grate one small white onion into bowl. Add a half teaspoon of each: ground cumin and ground coriander. Mix well and add salt to taste. If I have any fresh mint on hand, I chiffonade and add as well. I make this at least an hour ahead so the flavors of the onion and spices will meld. I grate the onion as opposed to dice as it gives a full flavor without having to bite into the onion! Use liberally over the vindaloo as a cooling agent!
See, that wasn't so hard was it? Check out my blog for the next couple of days to complete the Barack O'Bollywood Feast! Namaste!
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