Cyril’s Lamb Curry and Tomato Sambal


My love for Indian food developed while growing up in Branford, Connecticut and frequenting Darbar, where my sister and I religiously ordered Chicken Tikka Masala, Basmati Rice, Naan, and Gulab Jamun without question.  So it was not actually Indian food as a whole that I fell in love with but rather this exact meal as an entire food genre in itself. Sadly for my tastebuds, I moved away from Branford when I was a teen but always made it a priority to indulge in memories at Darbar whenever I re-visited.

Luckily over the years, I have stumbled upon a few beautiful diamonds in the rough (the rough being the world beyond Darbar): Curries in Liverpool, England, Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California, Nawab Indian Cuisine in Roanoke, Virginia (if you can believe it!) and Bihari, Eastern Food Bazaar, the Indian Food on UCT Medical Campus, and Cyril’s Curry Cooking Class (talk about alliteration) in Cape Town.  However, I have yet to taste a Chicken Tikka Masala that rivals Darbar’s but will continue my fervent search and hopefully make it back to Darbar one day.

Forever ago I made a conscious decision never to cook my own Chicken Tikka Masala out of fear of creating a dish that was disappointingly inferior.  However, Cyril’s Curry Cooking Class taught me the fine art of making curries and I now feel confident that I could tackle Chicken Tikka Masala should the perfect recipe present itself to me.

Jacquie, my number one cooking partner (besides Ty), and I excitedly signed up for Cyril’s class and every week for one month, Cyril taught us recipes and techniques that his mother taught him, which we will pass on to our children, and our children will pass on to their children, and the tradition will continue.  We brought wine, cooking tools, main ingredients, and enthusiasm.  Cyril provided the expert insight and beautiful homemade spices from his mother and Atlas Trading Company.  At the beginning of the course we were given an in-depth lesson about the botanical origin of Indian spices, the forms, and flavors.  By the end of the course, we had made about a dozen curries, half a dozen salads, breads, rice dishes, and desserts, all of which where absolutely divine, complex, unique, and most importantly, relatively easy to tackle at home without Cyril’s supervision (I hope).

Our messy cooking station

Jacquie, Cyril, and I cookin' curries

Chicken Curry

Out of all the many dishes we cooked, my favorite was the Lamb Curry

Jacquie the Curry Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 roughly chopped onion
  • 2 large tomatoes grated
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water
  • 4 star anise petals – the dried unripened fruit of a Southern Chinese tree that is 13x sweeter than sugar
  • 1 piece of cassia bark – the dried outer bark of a Cassia (Chinese cinnamon) tree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves – the dried unopened flower buds of an evergreen tree and is “the most pungent of all spices”
  • 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder – a rhizome from the ginger family that is “nature’s most vibrantly colored spice”
  • 2 tbsp curry powder – a western term, non-existant in India, which comprises a mixture of spices such as chillies and turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala – added to the dish at the end of cooking “to add a final touch of aromatics”
  • 1 packet of lamb cut into cubes with bone attached
  • 2 green chillies (optional)

Directions

  1. Add oil to pot, bring to medium heat, and add whole spices (star anise, cassia bark, cloves, and bay leaf). This process is called “tempering” which allows for the spice flavors to release and infuse in to the oil. Once the spices have been tempered you can remove them from your dish or keep them in if you are not fussed.
  2. Add onions and fry in oil until golden brown
  3. Add ginger/garlic paste
  4. Immediately add turmeric followed by curry powder
  5. Add the grated tomatoes
  6. Allow this to braise until oil seeps to the top of the surface and tomatoes are cooked
  7. Gently add in the lamb and the green chillies if you can handle the heat
  8. Add water, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes (the longer you cook, the softer and scrumptious the meat)
  9. When you are ready to turn off the plate, stir in the garam masala gently, and garnish with fresh coriander and salt to taste

Serve your Lamb Curry with Tomato Sambal, “a perfect accompaniment to curry dishes”

Butternut Curry and Tomato Sambal

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 chopped cucumber
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 handful of finely chopped fresh coriander
  • salt to taste

Directions

mix all of the ingredients together, add in the vinegar, and season with a dash salt

Jacqs, Ty, and I dishing up our last supper of Lamb Curry, Ricotta Curry, Fragrant Rice, and Soji

Advertisements

End-of-Block Foodie-Fiesta


The Public Health Master’s program at UCT accommodates working professionals by holding what is called “Block” scheduling, AKA HELL.  For each of your courses, you sit in lectures for 2.5 consecutive days and cover approximately 50% of the course material.  Although this dramatically reduces lecture time for the remainder of the semester and enables working professionals, like myself, to do an MPH while working full-time, it is incredibly non-conducive to learning and is an exhaustive exercise.

This year, Block was even more hellish than usual, because I had two courses back to back, which equated to an entire week of 8:30AM-4:00PM classes. So you can imagine that by Friday my brain was absolutely FRIED. To celebrate the end of Block, Ty and I had a garden party at our house and invited MPHers from my cohort and this year’s new cohort to unwind and get to know one another.

The party was a success – great people, great vibes, great drinks, and great food=the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Everyone brought something to munch on and here are some of the highlights…

I am not such a big fan of cocktails but rather am more of a wine/beer girl, so when I say Whitney’s Pimm’s Cocktails were totally awesome, you know they are worth it.  But beware, they are deliciously deadly!

Ingredients

  • Pimm’s
  • Dry Gin
  • Fresh Lemonade (Which we couldn’t find but carbonated lemonade did the trick)
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon
  • Mint

Instructions

Mix together 1 part Pimm’s, 1 part Gin, and 3-4 parts Lemonade.  Add a few slices of cucumber and lemon, a few leaves of mint, and mash it all together to release the flavors.

Kirsty’s Chocolate Fudge Squares are a delicious traditional South African dessert with smooth chocolate and soft biscuits in every bite.

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 1 packet (500g) icing sugar
  • 40g (100ml) cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 packets Marie biscuits

Instructions

Place the butter in a bowl and microwave for about 1 minute until melted.  Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa to remove the lumps and stir into the butter until fully blended.  Beat the eggs and stir into the chocolate mixture. Microwave the mixture, uncovered, for about 2 minutes and stir.  Break up the biscuits and stir into the mixture. Transfer to a small deep dish, smooth with spatula, and allow to cool. Then place the mixture in the fridge to harden and cut into squares.

Kirsty’s Bruschetta, adapted from Jamie Oliver, is a simple yet delicious hor d’oeuvre for a dinner party and was gobbled up within minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 french loaf cut into slices
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lots of chopped garlic
  • 2 finely chopped and seeded tomatoes
  • 1 cup of fresh finely chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 packet of mozzarella thinly sliced

 Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Spread the sliced bread on a pan.  Mix together the garlic and olive oil and then spread onto the bread. Bake the bread in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper.  When the bread is getting crusty, remove from the oven, spread the tomato mix onto each slice, and top with a slice of mozzarella. Put the bruschetta back into the oven until the cheese has fully melted and serve while still warm.  If you are feeling lazy, you can substitute the tomato-mix for ready-made basil pesto or tomato tapenade.

For my contribution, I made a variety of home-made gourmet Pizzas throughout the evening.  At one point, I had 5 excited girls standing around me asking questions as I built my pizzas, which was a truly blissful moment for me.

I don’t remember where I got this full-proof Pizza Dough recipe but I am completely against buying pre-made bases because of how easy it is to make and the fun-factor of rolling it out to my desired thickness, depending on my mood.

Ingredients (yields 4 big pizzas)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (white, wheat, or a mixture)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

Instructions

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the oil and warm water, stir a bit, and then remove from the bowl and go wild kneading the dough with your hands.  No need to wait for the dough to rise.  Roll the dough out, place in a greased pizza pan, and add toppings.  Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes until desired brownness.

I found the Barbeque Chicken Pizza recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s blog, which was modeled from the California Pizza Kitchen version but even better.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • About 1 cup of rotisserie chicken cut into bite size pieces (or 2 raw chicken breasts)
  • About 1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • About 1 tbl of honey
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 thinly sliced purple onion
  • 1/2 thinly julienned red pepper
  • a dash of dried basil
  • a dash of salt
  • a handful of chopped coriander

Instructions

Note: You can bake your own chicken directly in BBQ sauce but I used already cooked rotisserie chicken for convenience-sake.

Preheat the oven to about 180C.  In a bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce and honey.  In a separate bowl, mix together the chicken and half the sauce.  Lightly grease your pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Drizzle the remainder of the sauce all over the pizza base, then add a layer of mozzerella cheese, chicken, purple onion, red pepper, and a dash of salt.  Bake the pizza for about 25 minutes or until your desired brownness.  Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh coriander all over the pizza and serve while still hot, or cold because nothin’s better than cold pizza for breakfast.

I also got a few ideas for Mushroom Garlic Pizza from Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray but created a culmination of the two using my own personal pazazz.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • 3 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
  • a dash of red chili flakes
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 250g assorted mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • a handful of fresh rocket

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C.  In a pan, mix together the EVO, garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper and saute on medium heat for about 3 to release the flavors.  Add the mushrooms and paprika and cook until the mushrooms are brown and tender.  Lightly grease your pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Add a layer of mozzarella, mushrooms, and drizzle the remaining garlic sauce on top (but do not add too much oil or else the pizza will become oily).  Cook for about 25 minutes or until your desired brownness and top with rocket.

My dearest friend Renee introduced the Grape Pizza to me many years ago during University and it completely changed my perception that pizza is strictly a savory meal.  When I visited the US in August, Renee, Kate, and I had a reunion and of course made Grape Pizza and devoured every last piece.

The Grape Pizza Original with Renee and Kate

I wished to spread the love of Grape Pizza internationally, so made it for my garden party guests, and everyone was pleasantly surprised by the unique combination of sweet and  savory flavors that produced an almost dessert-like pizza.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • 1 cup halved purple seeded grapes
  • 1 small block of gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 small packet of fresh rosemary
  • honey to drizzle
  • A small handful of mozzarella (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Push the grapes gently into the dough facing downward and bake for about 10 minutes.  Pull the pizza out and sprinkle gorgonzola, mozzarella (optional), and rosemary all over the pizza. Lastly, lightly drizzle honey all over.  Place back in the oven for another 10-15 or until desired brownness.

Enjoy!

Ty’s Worms and Mince


From a very young age, Ty absolutely loved eating worms and his favorite type of worms were those slathered with mince and tomato sauce.  His second love was Portuguese Chicken Spice, a spicy blend of chilies, lemon, garlic, and paprika, which his dad taught him to put on everything.  So, when Ty became a teenager and started cooking dinner for his family, he inevitably made his famous Worms and Mince with Portuguese Chicken Spice every time.

Over the years, Ty became a Worms and Mince Masterchef and when he moved down to Cape Town, he effectively sustained himself by eating this ultimate comfort food for days on end.  On Sunday evenings he would pull out the largest pot in his kitchen, prepare 1200g of Worms and Mince, eat some for dinner, and store the rest in in as many tupperware containers as he could find. For the remainder of the week he would dig into his reserve and prepare solo Worms and Mince or carb-on-carb Worm Sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

When I met Ty he wooed me with his Worms and Mince, which no doubt worked because the only way to my heart is through my stomach.  He shared his Worms-cooking secrets with me but no matter how many times I cook it, I am never able to re-create the perfect blend of mince, tomatoes, and spices that Ty accomplishes with ease every single time.

As a food-venturist, I am always experimenting and changing up recipes with new ingredients, but If I ever attempt to deviate from Ty’s original recipe, he protests vehemently because “A Classic’s a Classic”.  However, over the years I have worn him down and sometimes he allows me to incorporate mushrooms, green peppers, or cabbage.

Ty’s Worms and Mince

A Ty Classic

Ingredients

  • 3 chopped garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 500g minced beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 heaped tsp portuguese chicken spice
  • 1 can of tomatoes and onion mix
  • 300g pasta of your choice
Instructions
In a large pan, saute the garlic and onions in oil until lightly browned.  Add the mince and at this time you can also add any veggies you would like (although Ty would be disappointed by this). Next mix in the basil, portuguese chicken spice, salt, and pepper.  Once the meat is nearly finished cooking, add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.  At this point cook your pasta of choice, which is spaghetti for Ty because they resemble worms of course and penne for me because I enjoy spiking it with my fork and am convinced that the flavors are better retained due to its ridginess.  Once the pasta is ready, you can either do the Ty method which is to mix the pasta into your sauce or the Kim method which is to spoon large amounts of sauce directly over your pasta. And sometimes we even grate lots of cheese on top.  No matter which pasta you use or how you serve it up, nothin’ is better than coming home, falling on the couch, and not lifting a finger as your man cooks you Worms and Mince after a long day at work…

Eggs Benny


Eggs Benedict is my hands-down favorite breakfast meal of all time.  Crepeville in Davis, California and Lazari in Vredehoek, Cape Town serve the best Eggs Benny on either side of the Atlantic and today I undertook the challenge of making it myself.  Ty claimed that he did not like Eggs Benny, which was his usual assertion for any unfamiliar food, so I was doubly determined to successfully pull it off and convince him of its awesomeness.

Whenever I cook a new dish, I always run frantically around the kitchen following directions and creating a tornado of dirty dishes and congealed food all over the stove, counter, and in the sink. So to carefully focus on each step and avoid destroying my kitchen, I decided to take my time cooking the bacon first, the hollandaise sauce second, and the poached eggs last. Inevitably, I still proceeded to use just about every cooking tool in our kitchen to experiment with different techniques and created a giant mess of of broken egg shells, eggs with broken yolks, hollandaise sauce, bread crumbs, and avocado strewn all over the counter.  Despite the extreme mess and lack of expertise, I produced an Eggs Benny that conquered Ty’s food prejudice and elicited multiple food-gasms.

I got the deliciously rich hollandaise sauce recipe from Andrea, learned how to poach eggs from Smitten Kitchen, and bought a fresh multigrain loaf of bread from a bakery in Rondebosch.

Eggs Benny

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Fresh multigrain or ciabatta bread sliced into 4 thick pieces
  • 8 pieces of bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 avocado sliced length-wise
  • A dash of paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the hollandaise sauce

  • 225g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbl hot water
  • 1 tbl lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • A dash of salt

Instructions

1. Cook the bacon in a frying pan until lightly browned and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds and set aside to cool.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and slowly add the the water, lemon juice, salt, paprika, and butter until combined.  pour the mixture into a small pan and whisk continuously for about 10 minutes on low heat until thickened.  if you let the sauce sit, the egg will start to cook, so be careful. once the sauce has thickened, pour it into a bowl and set aside.

3. For the step-by-step guide on how to poach eggs beautifully, see Smitten Kitchen’s tutorial.  Given that today was my very first attempt at poaching eggs, I am fairly proud of myself but am in no way ready to provide insight about the tricky task. My first attempt was pretty successful, the second ended in a detached, hardened yolk surrounded by floating egg whites, the third didn’t even make it into the pot because I broke the yolk, the fourth was on par with the first, and the last made it but had an unstable yolk that was barely holding on.  The trickiest part was getting the water just right; my water was either boiling or stagnant but never just simmering. I also struggled to pour the eggs directly in the middle of the whirlpool, which resulted in my egg whites whirling in the direction of the current instead of supporting its yolk.  Thus, after each attempt I had to pour out the messy water and start fresh, which elongated the process.  …Hopefully as time goes on my technique will improve!…

4. Lightly toast the bread by putting it under the broiler for a few minutes and re-heat the bacon and hollandaise sauce by microwaving for 15 seconds.  (when I have a better handle on the recipe, I hope to multi-task and finish cooking all the components at the same time, which will not require microwaving)

5.  Place the bread on a plate and assemble the Eggs Benny by adding 2 strips of bacon, the poached egg, a generous pouring of hollandaise sauce, 2-4 slices of avo, and a dash of pepper and paprika on top. And enjoy!

Chewy Thug Bars


At 11:00PM I got a slowly creeping then suddenly spiking craving for something sweet, which bolstered my motivation to bake for Ty’s last day of work before his final year of Architecture begins.  However, the challenge was to bake something yummy yet not so labor intensive, and with whatever ingredients I could find in the house, which was not much.

So, I perused through my recipes and remembered one from a work colleague called Ian’s Thug Crunchies (strange, I know), which I had most of the necessary ingredients to make. The first time I made these I followed the unhealthy recipe plus added even more unhealthy ingredients and they came out super sweet, crumbly, delicious, and unashamedly unhealthy.  However, this time around I decided to go the slightly healthier route and experimented with the recipe, which produced a more soft, subtle, seedy bar that satisfied Ty and his colleagues’ sweet tooths without overdoing it. The fun thing about this recipe is that it is quick, simple, and forgiving.  I completely encourage experimentation; you can make flour substitutions, sugar substitutions, saturated fat substitutions, and add all sorts of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate.

Chewy Thug Bars

Ingredients

  • 200g margarine
  • 1 tbl golden syrup or honey
  • 1 tbl vanilla
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup mixed seeds (linseed, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup dried coconut and/or fig
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • (1 bar roughly chopped dark chocolate – optional)


Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C (356F).  In a pot, melt the margarine on low heat and add the syrup and vanilla.  Add the baking powder, which will foam up, so remove from the heat and mix.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats, salt, sugar, cinnamon, seeds, and dried fruit.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until fully coated.  Mix in the flour (and chocolate). Press the mixture firmly into a deepdish ungreased pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Cut into rectangles while still warm and eat when cooled oooor, if you are impatient and too excited like me, you can eat a bar right away and risk burning your tongue, which may be a worthwhile trade-off to please your tastebuds.