Wednesday, November 30, 2011

R o g a n J o s h L a m b

Somebody took me to a real Curry dive in Cleveland that had the slowest service  since my old 2 a.m. hangover days  at the infamous Taco Bell in Rogers Park. When the food eventually did arrive it  all--and I mean every single dish-- had a half inch of Ghee floating at the top. This reminded me of my beloved Bubba Rachel who brought  me up in Manchester, England and found a way to use schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) in every dish she made, save, perhaps, the fruit compote. At any rate, this was a night of pure revelation for me. Not all of the people of India and its diaspora can cook! What a crushing shocker. This here is the real deal. Consider the fact that  my lovely lady wife, Elsie, hates the very smell of lamb. The brilliant spicing in this dish will transform  even the most pungent lamb.

         *   Cooking  t i m e    7 0   m i n u t e s
         *   S e r v e s   6

A  2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
12 Cloves garlic
4 cups pink wine
2 cups vegetable oil
2 Ibs cubed lamb
10 cardamom pods
4 bay leaves
6 cloves
20 peppercorns
1 medium Cinnamon stick
4 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
2 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
4 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cayenne pepper (or, if you want to grow hair on your toes, boil, skin and mash 2 habanero/scotch bonnet peppers)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups natural yogurt
1 tbsp garam masala

Blend together the ginger, garlic, and two cups of ice cold water into a smooth paste. Brown the meat along with one of the onions, two cloves of garlic along with two cups of wine. Once it’s browned, set aside. Heat the oil in your  favorite heavy-duty skillet over a medium flame. Fry--all the while stirring gently--the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and Cinnamon in the oil. Add the rest of the onions, stir fry until the onions are golden brown. Then slowly add the garlic-ginger paste and stir in for a minute, then gently add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt. Stir and mix for a couple of minutes. Add the meat and its juices, mix well so it’s all coated with the paste. Add the  tablespoon of yogurt, mixing well on low light before gradually adding the rest  of the yogurt, stir and fry for another three minutes. Add another two cups of water, bring it to a low, rolling boil, while scraping away the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan into the sauce.  If you would like it to taste a little sweeter use more pink wine.

Cover the pan and simmer on a low light for 80 minutes, checking and stirring the pot every ten minutes or so. The sauce should  slowly turn viscous and bubbly, but not too thick. If it is thick enough that the spoon sticks, you need more liquid  and should add wine or water. Finally, spoon off the excess fat, sprinkle the garam masala and black pepper and mix one last time before serving with basmati rice and nan.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For Elsie

Each night
before I get some kip
I think about
Ebola, Al-Qaida, starving Sudanese,
Barack Obama, pornography and war.

That way
I’m not thinking about You!

Indian Eggplant (Burtha)

I love eggplant. Its taste and texture are totally unique and it  can stand hours of overcooking in a way the fibers of most vegetables can’t.  How would I know that? Well, I grew up in England where Mushy Peas are beloved and vegetables are only eaten after they own no flavor. Anyway, this is a killer of a tasty veg dish that you can add as much extra heat to as your heart desires. Use one large American eggplant or two small Indian ones. Better yet, if available, buy Chinese eggplant. Chinese eggplant  is far superior when it comes to a quick marinade for soaking up flavors and there’s no need to  pre-prep by broiling (as in #1)because you  eat the skin. Burtha is both a fine side dish or a superb dip


 1 eggplant, or 2 large  Chinese eggplant
 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 large tomato - peeled, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup frozen peas


   1. Preheat the  broiler in your oven. Rub oil on the skin of the egg plant, or coat thoroughly with cooking spray. Place under the broiler, and cook until the flesh is soft and the skin is bubbling and beginning to blister off, app. 30 minutes. Turn when necessary for even cooking. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, scoop the flesh out of the skin, discard the skin; chop up the flesh, and set aside.
   2. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the cumin seed still they crackle for a few seconds and turn golden brown. Act fast. Do not let them burn!   Add the onion, ginger and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Lower the heat after two minutes to medium. Do not  let the onions get too brown. Stir in the peas and  tomato, and season with turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook and stir for a few minutes.
   3. Place the eggplant pieces in the skillet, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until most  of the moisture evaporates. Taste, and adjust seasonings if desired. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve.

Stop Snivelling: Make Your Own Vindaloo Paste

Lamb Vindaloo: Mmmmmhmmm!
I get really irritated when I hear people complain that you  can’t get a “proper curry” in the U.S. That’s silly. I can see it if you don’t live in a big city, but I can’t think of any major metropolis anywhere where  Indian, Pakistani or Bangla Deshi iigrants haven’t settled. At any rate, for those of you who’ve been complaining and moaning on the blogs about getting your fix, reply to this or email me at  Wherever you are in North America, I will fill you in on a quality eating establishment in your vicinity and sites for you to do your long-distance food shopping from.

Anyone who follows my football site knows I just took my youngest  home to England to watch Manchester United destroy Spurs and Arsenal. The second order of business was food. They call it the Curry Mile and us Mancs in exile miss it like mad. So me and me old mate Nobby Patel went on oe of our periodic heat hunts and ended up at the old tried-and-true Moti Mahal on Wythenshawe Road. They make the best Vindaloo anywhere. What makes theirs so  especially good is something which ‘Britishizes ’it. Instead of using plain, white vinegar use malt vinegar.
And, remember, old spices in a jar will not  keep well I use plain old, reasonably priced corn oil. Safflower oil is a good alternative if you prefer something slightly more viscous.

Chopped vidalia onions- 6 cups
Mustard seeds- 2 tsp
Tomatoes- 2 lb
Malt vinegar- 1/2 Cup
Red chilies-25 or  3 oz chili paste
Garlic- 30 cloves
Grated ginger- 5 tablespoons
Cardamom seeds 2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tbs.
Fenugreek seeds- 1 tsp
Oil- 1 cup
Pink Wine-2 cups

Grind the red chilies with half  of the ginger, garlic, cardamom, cumin & mustard.

Mix this into a paste with  the vinegar.

Fry the other half of the garlic and the onions until golden brown.

Add the tomatoes and fry on a low heat for ten minutes before adding the ground spice  paste and wine.  Slowly add the remaining spices and fry until the oil separates from the mixture.

Allow the mix to  cool completely.

Store in an airtight container and freeze. Prepare  your meat of choice, defrost your vindaloo and simmer on a low light for 90 minutes.