Keralan Fish Curry

Southern Indian food is often vegetarian, but they often also make use of local seafood, as in this dish, when it is prepared in the traditional manner.

The key to this dish is the tamarind concentrate and coconut milk. I really don’t think there is any substitute for either of these ingredients.

If you have the time, this sauce benefits from a day in the refrigerator. Then you can heat the sauce and add the fish when ready to prepare. Additionally, any leftovers are wonderful when heated up.

Note: If you do not have a spice grinder, you may use pre ground spices.

 
 
Ingredients

1.5 lbs Fish, cut into 2 inch chunks. Try to use a firm fleshed fish. Kingfish is traditional.
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
6-7 Curry Leaves
1 large Onion, cut in half and then thinly sliced.
1 tsp Salt
3 long Red Chili Pepper
2 inch piece fresh Ginger Root
3 cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Chili Powder, ground. I like to use the Korean chili flakes and grind them in my spice grinder. Kashmiri chili powder will work as well.
1 tsp Coriander Seeds, ground in the spice grinder.
1 tsp Turmeric, ground 
1/4 tsp Cardamon, ground
1/4 tsp Fenugreek, ground 
1 can Coconut Milk
 2 Tbsp Tamarind Concentrate
1 cup Vegetable Stock
Juice of one Lime to finish
 
 
Begin by slicing your onions and chilies into thin strips. Peel your garlic and ginger root and chop or grind into a fine paste. 
 
Heat your remaining oil in a large sauté pan or a cast iron Dutch oven, such as Le Cruset. Add in your curry leaves and sauté until they change color. 

Then add your garlic and ginger, lightly sauté without browning, add your onions and chili peppers and the salt and cook until the onions are soft. Add your ground spices and gently sauté them, being careful not to scorch them.
 
Add your coconut milk, tamarind concentrate and vegetable or seafood stock and bring to a soft simmer. You can let this simmer for as long as you like, but it\’s even better if it spends a night in the refrigerator and is heated up the next day.

When the thickness is to your liking, add in the fish and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Squeeze on the lime and serve over basmati rice.
 

Risotto alla Funghi Porcini

Risotto is one of the simplest dishes imaginable, yet it is so often prepared poorly. The key is patience and flawless ingredients. There are no short cuts here. 
There are many so wonderful versions of risotto, but I personally like this one as it allows you to learn to basics without any trouble. It really is a simple recipe. 
 
 
You will note that this is completely vegetarian and can be made as a vegan dish by substituting out the butter and cheese with non dairy options. I\’ve made it both ways, and have to say both are excellent. 
If you can follow these few simple steps, you will create a world class risotto in your own kitchen to rival most any. I always suggest a quick read through the recipe prior to beginning so you fully understand the process. 
Here are the few things to remember:
  • You will need the stock to be boiling and on the stove next to your risotto pan. Save yourself a lot of mess and hassle by placing it on the proper side. If you are right handed, place it on your right side and vice versa. I find a ladle very handy to transfer the broth. 
  • Use only true Arborio rice or if that is not available, medium grain rice. 
  • Prepare your dried porcini mushrooms by putting them in a heat proof dish and pouring boiling water over them. Allow them to sit and soak for 15-20 minutes and then drain and retain the soaking liquid to add to your broth. 
  • Mince your onions prior to beginning, as once you start cooking, you will need to be pretty much constantly stirring and adding more stock. Plan on 15-20 minutes to get a perfect al dente risotto. 

Ingredients 

2 cups of Arborio Rice
4 cups low sodium Vegetable Stock, diluted by half with water to create 8 cups total. 
2 Tbsp Earth Balance or Butter
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 Tbsp Onion, finely minced
3/4 cup Porcini Mushrooms, soaked and sliced. 
Salt to taste. If you do not use low sodium stock, you will likely need none. 
1/2 cup non dairy Parmesan or authentic Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. Grand Pandano is a suitable substitute. 
Begin by preparing all of your ingredients and having them handy. 
Dilute your stock and bring it to a soft boil. Melt your butter and oil in a large sauté pan and add your onions. Gently sauté until they are translucent. 
Add in your rice and stir to coat. Increase you heat slightly.  Now add in one ladle of the stock and stir gently until it is almost evaporated and then add another ladle and so on. 
Taste after 15 minutes to gauge the timing. The rice should have a slight al dente texture, but should not be hard or crunchy. You will notice the rice starting to puff up. That’s a good sign. 
Note: If you start to run out of stock, don’t panic, just add 1 cup of hot water to the remaining stock. 
When the risotto is ready, add your cheese, stir and serve immediately. You may add additional cheese if desired. 
Note: For a perfect accent, you may dress the risotto with a fine quality white truffle oil at the very end, just before serving. It is a wonderfully decadent flourish. 
 

Grenada – Ever wonder where nutmeg comes from?

Just returned from the spice island of Grenada. Such a lush and stunningly beautiful island. Very friendly people and so many wonderful spices, fruits and vegetables. It is a true garden of Eden. 
 
Just to name a few, Grenada’s rich soil supplies nutmeg, mace, clove, bay leaf, cacao, ginger root, banana, breadfruit, star fruit, papaya ,cassava, limes, and too many others to name. It is said they can grow everything on the island except wheat and apples. 
Unripe cacao. When it is ripe, it turns yellow. The cacao seeds are inside
Cacao plantation with sorting and drying areas
The process of harvesting nutmeg is truly fascinating. Nutmeg grows on trees which are medium sized and when the fruit drops to the ground, it is ready to be processed. 
 
Nutmeg Tree
 
 
After drying for a few weeks the pods are dropped to crack open the outside hull to reveal the nutmeg seed, which is meshed with bright red mace. The mace is then removed and dried in boxes, while the nutmeg is graded, by being suspended in water and then further dried, sorted and packed into sacks. 
 

Nutmeg and ripe Cacao pod with seeds. Note the red colored mace surrounding the nutmeg seed

Nutmeg seeds being suspended in water to rate quality


Nutmeg, ready for shipping

 
So if you ever wondered why nutmeg was pricey and mace even more so, now you know. I can highly recommend this beautiful island for a visit. You won’t be disappointed.